James Robinson's "Squadron Supreme" Takes Lethal, Pre-Emptive Action

Heroes routinely fight to save their worlds in the Marvel Universe, but that doesn't mean they're always successful. In fact, the All-New, All-Different Marvel Universe that emerged in the aftermath of "Secret Wars" is home to several heroes from alternate realities whose earths were destroyed in the conflict. Some of these heroes -- Nighthawk, Hyperion, Doctor Spectrum, Power Princess and Blur -- are naturally feeling very protective of their new home world.

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This December, a new "Squadron Supreme" series from writer James Robinson and artist Leonard Kirk sees these interdimensional refugees join forces with the warrior woman from the future, Thundra, to take pre-emptive action against the pernicious forces that threaten their new home planet. Their first target? Marvel's original anti-hero, Namor, the Sub-Mariner, King of Atlantis, who in Jonathan Hickman's recent "New Avengers" became a destroyer of worlds. CBR News spoke with Robinson about why the team is targeting Namor, the Golden Age Hero who will become obsessed with taking the Squadron down, and the tensions that will arise among various team members.

CBR News: Let's start with the big news -- the death of Namor in the opening arc of "Squadron Supreme." He's one of Marvel's oldest characters, and I know he's a character you enjoy writing, so I can imagine the decision to kill him off was not something you took lightly.

James Robinson: No one took it lightly, but there's a point where he sort of crossed over. His decisions in Jonathan Hickman's Avengers books have been so dark, duplicitous, and downright evil at times. Also, quite frankly, he was the guy who pulled the trigger on Doctor Spectrum's world and destroyed it.

So there's a need for some kind of retribution. Plus, they're somewhat of a preemptive force and Namor is just out there. How many times has he unleashed tsunamis and tidal waves on America and the world? How many times have his armies invaded the surface and caused grief and death? So he's always been an anti-hero, but there is a point where he needs to pay for his crimes. He's going to pay for them dramatically in this first issue.

So the death of Namor is something that flows naturally from previous stories while also creating some interesting story telling opportunities for the Marvel Universe?

Yes, as events unfold in the future there are ramifications of this act that will carry on in the Squadron's book right through the first year.

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Namor's death begs some questions about the Squadron's motivations and methods. As you mentioned, he destroyed Doctor Spectrum's world. Is this a team primarily motivated by vengeance? And are lethal solutions the Squadron's preferred method of solving problems?

In this initial instance they are allowing vengeance to cloud their motivations because they've all lost their worlds, and they're all hurting. They're all disenfranchised and displaced. So a sense of it being personal is absolutely there, whereas other times when they're fighting Roxxon, Hydra, or some world-polluting alien invader that won't be present.

So I think this is the exception and it sets the book on a really dramatic, violent tone. That will be part of the book, but at the same time these guys tread that line between heroics and villainy. So they aren't going to just kill indiscriminately every time, but they will cross that line if they have to.
That especially applies to Nighthawk. He's a logical guy who believes the ends justify the means. What that will slowly lead towards is some conflict with this version of Hyperion, who is much more of a paragon. That was set up by Jonathan Hickman and there was a really great solo Hyperion story in "Avengers" #34.1, which was written by Al Ewing. That really showed him as a paragon and an ideal man.

So Nighthawk's logic, charisma, and the idea that he's among fellow lost souls are why Hyperion joined the group. I'm going to give him a life and career though. I wanted to give him a working class career that would allow him to fly off at any moment if he was needed and also allow him to see the country. So he's going to be a truck driver. While he's getting in touch with the country and the people he'll begin to question if the Squadron's methods are perhaps too extreme and this will lead to friction and conflict between him and Nighthawk.

The death of a very well connected former king like Namor is something that's bound to be noticed by the rest of the Marvel Universe. In fact, it looks like it attracts the attention of the Uncanny Avengers in "Squadron Supreme" #3. Will the Squadron operate both covertly in the shadows and in the light?

Yes, absolutely. They are aware that they're pursued. They're aware that in the eyes of many they're villains. They are hated by Jim Hammond, who will be a strong supporting character. He's one of my favorite characters. I really enjoyed writing him in "All-New Invaders," and he's now an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. So he'll be in charge of trying to take the Squadron down.

They're heroes at the same time though. Their goals are noble goals, and they actually have their hearts in the right place even if the way they bring about the ends of those goals at times may raise an eyebrow.

What's the dynamic of the Squadron like when you pick up their story in issue #1? Is this a team that likes and respects each other?

They're a team of characters who have chosen to work together, but they're still sorting out if they like and respect each other. There are different aspects involved too. Doctor Spectrum's world was so ideal and perfect that she comes to this world and questions if it's even worth protecting. Then Blur comes from the New Universe, and if you recall, that world was much more grounded in realism. So he's now in a world full of spaceships, aliens, and costume characters, and he actually feels guilty that he prefers this world to his own world. Power Princess has a different past and perspective too.

So they all come from different places and have different ways of looking at things, which means finding common ground besides hailing from these destroyed alternate realities will be part of the subtext of the book.

We'll also be looking at how they came together and how they met. That will be revealed over time. Our first issue isn't an origin story. It's eight months later and they've already met and got a mission statement. How all that happened will be revealed later on in the series.

In the Squadron Supreme story that ran as part of "Avengers" #0 Nighthawk served as the team's mission coordinator and provided them with intelligence. Is he also their leader?

As you'll see, he thinks and assumes he's the leader of the group, but there are others that beg to differ. So that is some more drama that we'll be encountering in the future.

Marvel Announces "Squadron Supreme" From Robinson, Kirk

Most of your cast members, especially the ones with some history to them like Nighthawk and Hyperion, have connections to past incarnations of Squadron Supreme, but you're also dealing with a character who I don't believe has any such ties in Thundra. Is that correct?

Yes. She's in the book because [editor] Tom Brevoort and I just liked Thundra. She does hail from an alternate future. So there is that aspect, but her involvement and place in the team will be revealed, especially in issues #4 and #5 where the team goes to Weirdworld. If you remember, she had a connection with Arkon. So that will make sense as the book moves forward.

What's it like bouncing Thundra off the other members of the Squadron? She definitely seems like the type to not take any nonsense and call out people and actions she doesn't believe in.

I don't want to say too much, but she will definitely respect some characters more than others. If you notice her history and the men she's had in her life, she's very attracted to strong men; people like Arkon and Ben Grimm. So I'm not going to say if there's anything romantic, but she'll definitely admire Hyperion, both for his physical strength and his noble ideas.

You have a pretty diverse cast in "Squadron Supreme" that also allows you to easily tell a wide variety of stories. With that in mind, I imagine it's great to have your old friend and collaborator, the very versatile Leonard Kirk, drawing the book.

That's absolutely right. It breaks my heart that our "Fantastic Four" run is not better read by people because I'm so proud of it. I think we did wonderful work, and I think Marvel does, too, which is why they gave us such a great assignment.

I think Leonard is a genius. I love working with him. He does these amazing layouts in blue ink that indicate where the word balloons will be placed. They're small, but he does them in such detail that they're exciting to see how handles a panel, a page, and double-page spreads.

Then when the actual art comes in it's gorgeous. So I really, really love working with Leonard. I'm so excited to be working with him on this project and I think we're going to make the Squadron occupy a really interesting space in the Marvel Universe.

It's out there among the Avengers books, but it can also do its own thing. So in terms of what's ahead it can and will touch on characters from the Inhumans and characters from the X-Books. The Squadron will be everywhere in the Marvel Universe. It's a book where you'll never know what to expect from issue to issue. I guarantee it.

I imagine further down the line we'll start to see connections to David Walker's upcoming "Nighthawk" series and Chuck Wendig's upcoming "Hyperion" series, correct?

Yes, absolutely. You will definitely see the Squadron Supreme mini-universe, within the Marvel Universe, expand.

As I stressed, this is a book that will constantly surprise readers. And for fans of Namor that hate me now? Just hang on in there and let's see how things unfold.

"Squadron Supreme" #1 is on sale December 16, 2015.

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