Jeph Loeb Rockets Into "Nova" - UPDATED With More Art

Almost from the moment they announced the short story in Marvel Comics first "Point One" issue that introduced Sam Alexander, it was a sure thing that Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness would be doing a new "Nova" series together. Bit that doesn't mean there aren't any questions about where the new teenage hero who's taken on the legacy of Rich Ryder will go next.

The new series launching in February as part of the ongoing Marvel NOW! relaunch, and today the publisher assembled Loeb and Editor Sana Amanat for their latest "Next Big Thing" conference call to discuss the origins of the book and the future of the reborn Cosmic corner of the Marvel U.

The call began with Loeb describing the pitch of the series and its first issue. "We begin at the beginning," he said. "Ed McGuinness and I are huge Nova fans, and in particular Rich Rider fans and the Nova Corps and all this stuff that's been going on for decades." He said part of what got the ball rolling on this book was that Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning decided to kill off the former Nova in their Cosmic run, necessitating a new young hero to pick up the helm. "We were incredible fortunate that we became the prologue for the gigantic event that was 'Avengers Vs. X-Men'...I think that speaks to how important Nova is to the Marvel Universe."

That led the character through appearances in "AvX Infinite" and then "Point One NOW!" where he took on old school Nova villain Diamondhead. "Now we have Sam taking on the responsibility of being the only Nova he knows about...and that legacy is out there which was Rich Rider's that will hang heavy over Sam," Loeb said. "But we're going to go back six months to when Sam was a kid living in a very small town in Arizona who never believed there be anything for him beyond his own backyard...little did he know that his backyard would be the entire universe."

Loeb recalled that he and McGuinness first worked together on Marvel's "Wolverine Annual '96," saying, "That first issue showed what I found Ed would become, which is an incredibly powerful artist on the page." He said the "Nova" series would change that dynamic up, however and that the goal here was to get McGuinness to draw smaller and tell a story that emotionally felt more like Loeb's work with Tim Sale. At the same time, this small character would clash with "the gigantic-ness of the Marvel Universe" so widescreen action could carry through the series as well.

The writer compared this Sam Alexander to the one young viewers have been in the "Ultimate Spider-Man" cartoon on DisneyXD, describing that Sam as a cockier version of this one. "I think he absolutely has a bit of that cockiness, but there's a hard road ahead of him to get him there...even as you're reading this first arc where he's learning about the start of this journey he's going on, you know that he ends up in 'Avengers Vs. X-Men'" where Thor will ask him to be an Avenger for what he does. He said the journey of the series will take Sam to the point where he's the character on the TV show.

Asked about the early pages of a team of Nova Corps members unfamiliar to fans, the writer played coy but spoke of that scene being a pivotal one. "It is in some ways not what you think it is, but I can tell you that Ed is having a blast designing these new characters," Loeb said, saying that some may not survive. "By the end of this first arc, you'll understand who those guys are and why that scene is so important in the story of how Sam got the helmet."

As to whether more Infinite Comics would be produced with Nova, Loeb said that had yet to be determined, but they were set on getting the character out and involved in the broader Marvel U. "We want to see Nova and Ed's incredible design shared by everybody...we got really lucky last time in bringing in a new character in the Red Hulk, and the most flattering thing that happened was Brian Bendis calling me up and going, 'What do you think about this guy joining the Avengers'?" He said that whether the invite from Thor for Sam to join the Avengers now would be followed up only at Jonathan Hickman's discretion, but for now they were focusing on making the Cosmic books as a whole more important to the rest of the Marvel line.

"The relationship between Nova and the Guardians of the Galaxy...is something you'll see from issue #1, page one," the writer explained, saying he was excited to see more of McGuinness' take on the Cosmic team, adding that he and Bendis would be coordinating heavily as the new books got underway.

The action of the book will be split between earth and space, the latter of which will feel very familiar to the hero. Loeb spoke about how they chose Arizona as Sam's home state. "It came down to wanting to find some big sky country," he said, noting that discussion started in Montana before Loeb discovered that Arizona's small town atmosphere mixed with the desert backdrop fit both the character and the artist well. "It reminded us of what planets look like across the galaxy...we wanted to start with an atmosphere that would not feel all that different once he got out there. We'll see how that interacts with Sam and his world."

As for villains, after Diamondhead's appearance, readers can expect a much more serious threat in the regular series. "It really is the biggest and the baddest of the Marvel Universe...it'll be a little bit of a surprise of who he's up against in this first arc, but it is absolutely based in the world of Nova but goes to the next level...by the end of the second issue, you'll know what's at stake and who the villains are," he said. "Part of what's great about this character is that here's a guy who's literally doing on the job training...we already know Sam is a guy who plays a role in stopping the Phoenix, and all I can say is that his first adventure is on that same level."

Even the change to a blue helmet for the character from the previous version has an explanation behind it. "What we know about the Novas is not everything we know about the Novas," he said, noting that they'd gone back through all the mythology of previous Nova series. "It was not done from a benign point of view. There is a story reason for it."

Asked whether the book would have a more all-ages feel, Loeb said that tone came more from the fact that this was the story about a 15-year-old boy and in a franchise that was long known for its fun feel.

Loeb wrapped the call by saying that the members of Abnett and Lanning's Annihilators would not appear in the first arc, but the series was open to guest stars from across the span of Cosmic Marvel.

"Nova" #1 ships this February from Marvel Comics.

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