The latest incarnation of the super hero group known as the Squadron Supreme announced their presence to the Marvel Universe in a very public way; with the execution of Prince Namor of Atlantis, who was responsible for the destruction of one of their members' home worlds. That murder came in the opening arc of the new “Squadron Supreme” ongoing series by writer James Robinson and artist Leonard Kirk and swept the new team of extradimensional refugees into the machinations of the villainous Warrior Woman; a traitorous member of their team out to conquer the world.
In the series' current “Civil War II” tie-in arc, Warrior Woman's scheme is about to come to fruition thanks to the prophesies of the Inhuman seer Ulysses, and unfortunately for the Squadron, one of Ulysses' visions involves the return of Namor who might be ready to show the team how he earned his nickname of “Atlantis' Avenging Son.”
CBR News spoke with Robinson about his long form vision for “Squadron Supreme,” the various and diverse narratives that will compose upcoming issues, and his inspirations for Warrior Woman and her criminal empire, the Myriad.
CBR News: This latest arc, which prophesies the return of Namor might have some people looking at your initial arc of “Squadron Supreme” in a new light. Was killing Namor and bringing him back always part of your long term plan for the series?
James Robinson: I saw the reaction of “Oh my god he killed Namor!” And I'm often mystified by that particular reaction. It feels like the reaction of fans who have never read a comic book before. Because obviously Namor was never going to stay dead. I deliberately set that up as a finite death. It wasn't a case of something like an explosive blaze happened and suddenly he was gone. I beheaded him so people would wonder, “How the hell is that going to get undone?”
I'm always kind of astounded when people get really angry over the deaths of characters. It's not just me it happens to either. It happens to a lot of people. I don't say this to make fun of fans, but come on guys it's comics! Characters are killed in order to bring them back.
So I always intended to bring Namor back and the idea to kill him first came about because he was the finger on the button that destroyed Doctor Spectrum's Earth. So it's very organic that they would come after him, but I was told at the time, “You can kill him off but you have to bring him back quickly. You can't take too long.” So the funny thing is I originally intended to bring him back in issue #6, but then Tom Brevoort said, “If anybody wants to set something in Weirdworld that would be great.” So I did the two issues in Weirdworld, which ultimately, every single aspect of those two issues and what came after all lead up to the resurrection of Namor: Doctor Spectrum, Hyperion's vulnerability to magic, Warrior Woman and the country that she's taken over. All of those were narrative building blocks that were building to the current “Finding Namor” arc.
So I always intended to bring Namor back, but it was interesting that his inevitable return of course got delayed, and then you don't realize that all of a sudden he's been dead for 10 months. [Laughs]
At the end of “Squadron Supreme” #11 the team's pursuit of Warrior Woman lead them to fragment into smaller groups in what felt like the set up for some very different types of stories. Doctor Spectrum and Hyperion were pulled into what appears to be a time travel style story via Reed Richards’ time machine. Nighthawk looks to be continuing your “Civil War II” tie-in with a tale of stealth and intrigue as he tracks Blue Marvel. And Blur and Thundra are now in the clutches of the original Human Torch, Jim Hammond, and S.H.I.E.L.D. What will we see from these characters and stories in upcoming issues?
All of those things are important. You'll see how it all unfolds, but the fact that Blur who hails from the “New Universe,” which was created during the Jim Shooter era of Marvel, is very much in love with this world. The New Universe was a very realistic place. It was this world where there isn't a Captain America, Iron Man, Inhumans, Skrulls, and all the other fantastic stuff of the Marvel Universe. So he loves this place, and now he's been captured by Jim Hammond who is playing the role of the detective from “The Fugitive” and is tracking the Squadron down because of their murder of his friend, Namor. The fact that Blur is captured is all part of the bigger picture.
The stuff with Nighthawk also folds into “Civil War II” in a unique way, I think. We've tied into that event since issue #9, and I seeded the mechanism to bring Namor back through “Civil War II.” A lot of tie-ins have had the heroes arguing about Ulysses and the merits of his ability to speculate the future. There's other stories where he's been using those abilities in one way or another to try and preempt something from happening. I don't think though in any other books that they've shown a team falling prey to Ulysses abilities, which is what you saw happened to the Squadron in issue #10. So I've been trying to bring different viewpoints to our tie-in aspects.
It's a challenge to do something with these that are A) interesting and B) is moving your book forward and not just part of the crossover. That way people don't feel alienated or don't quite understand what's going on when they hit the tie-in issues.
Then with Doctor Spectrum and Hyperion, yes there are some time travel aspects. That story is partly how we'll get Namor back. The larger question though is how do they get him back without effecting all the things that happened since he died? They're going to have to navigate some time paradoxes.
So, yes, we have three separate stories. When you write a team book and all your characters are running around all at once it can feel like every other team book. So that stuff isn't very fun to write. When you break the team into smaller groups though you can explore and play with their personalities. So without giving much away, the means in which Namor is brought back partly lies within the powers of Doctor Spectrum, who despises Namor for killing her world. I hope readers enjoy the thought process that leads to her choice.
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Namor's return is coming about partly due to the machinations of “Squadron Supreme's” big villain, Warrior Woman. Refresh my memory -- is the Myriad, the alien criminal empire she controls, an organization that had been established previously? Or something you created for this book?
I created them for this book. They were me trying to come up with an organization that felt fresh and new and literally grounded, but in a good way, because any alien from the Marvel Universe can be part of this group. I see them as a multi-alien-race Cosa Nostra that has quietly and insidiously set itself up in this world. Then here comes Warrior Woman and through the magic of Modred the Mystic she now controls them, and they follow her. So she has all of that at her disposal.
This was all part of the plan too. We were always going to have Warrior Woman pass herself off as Power Princess and have her be a traitor to the group. The late addition to the story was me thinking to myself that it's a shame there isn't a single member of Mark Gruenwald's “Squadron Supreme” that survived. So I thought, “Why don't we pit Warrior Woman against the real Power Princess?” The story of these two mortal enemies locked in battle will continue.
The story of Warrior Woman's battle with the Squadron has been building since the reveal of her true identity in the series' first arc. It feels like things have been escalating quite rapidly too. Is the Warrior Woman story coming to a climax soon?
Yes, I've got a lot of things planned involving all the characters. Something that may seem like it just involves a character's personality is actually a narrative building block towards them making decisions and the actions they take, which we'll see unfold in upcoming issues.
Finally, the other element we should touch upon is the person who makes sure all the choices and actions in “Squadron Supreme” resonate dramatically for your readers -- your longtime collaborator, artist Leonard Kirk, who really can handle anything you give him.
I love working with Leonard. I tell him what a genius he is all the time when we speak on the phone. I've worked with him now for three years or more, and I don't know what I'd do without him.
Robinson's next issue, "Squadron Supreme" #14, hits stands on November 14.