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MARVEL NEXT BIG THING: “Civil War II” with Bendis, Brevoort & Alonso

by  in Comic News Comment
MARVEL NEXT BIG THING: “Civil War II” with Bendis, Brevoort & Alonso

Marvel Comics is once again on the verge of war — “Civil War II,” to be precise, a June-debuting event with a main series from writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist David Marquez — a conflict between heroes with Captain Marvel on one side, and Iron Man leading the other, said to be spiritually similar to the 2007-2007 original comic book “Civil War” but set to play out in a very different way.

With the event approaching, Marvel’s latest “Next Big Thing” conference call with the comic book press featured Bendis, Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso and Marvel Senior Vice President of Publishing (and perennial event series editor) Tom Brevoort on the line, all talking the very latest in “Civil War II.” Marvel also released new “Civil War II” art, dispersed throughout this article, including brand-new interior pages from issue #1 by Marquez.

First question, from call moderator and Marvel publicist Chris D’Lando, asked about creating a story, like the original “Civil War,” where each side had a defensible position. Bendis described the genesis of the original “Civil War,” saying it stemmed from conversation on another event story that didn’t come to fruition.

For the current “Civil War II,” “We were talking about things that were going on in the world today that are similarly dividing to our culture, which is very different from where we were 10 years ago with the original ‘Civil War,'” Bendis said, mentioning “personal accountability” and “the way the world is treating itself.” “Like the original ‘Civil War,’ it didn’t have a right or wrong answer, it was the way you approached the subject,” Bendis continued.

At the next retreat, writers of individual characters picked where they thought their respective heroes would land — and the rosters ended up pretty even. “If there was a lopsided version, then something’s wrong. But it was pretty evenly divided, which got very exciting for us.”

Alonso said he recently read a script by Bendis, in which Tony Stark articulated his position, and he thought there was no way anyone could argue with it — until a scene with Carol Danvers, where Alonso questioned his earlier position. “‘Civil War I’ connected with fans outside of comics because it connected to the world we live in,” and “Civil War II” aims to do the same thing, saying it’s very much about the “concept of profiling the future.”

The new Inhuman at the center of “Civil War II,” who can predict the future, is named Ulysses.

“It’s one of the many themes to this,” Bendis explained. “Here’s this young man who is being forced to grow up very quickly. He was on a pretty traditional route on America, and something happened that completely derailed his life — and that’s becoming an Inhuman. A few things are happening with this character — this character expresses an idea that shows what’s unique about the Inhuman story, and the growing Inhuman population the Marvel Universe, and the stories they can tell.”

“This is someone who had a specific view of the superheroic community, and then is thrust right in the middle of it in a very controversial and dividing way,” Bendis continued. “Going from, ‘Holy crap, that’s Iron Man,’ to ‘Holy crap, Iron Man is coming after me.’ There’s a lot going on with the character. It really sets the stage for the Inhumans going forward.”

Bendis said that “Civil War II” #0, illustrated by Jim Cheung and available on Free Comic Book day (May 7), sets up a lot of the players of the story, and “something happens” to set the event in motion.

“The Free Comic Book Day story is its own story, it will not be reprinted in ‘Civil War II’ #1,” Brevoort clarified. “It is a piece of the puzzle. It is a huge set-piece that factors directly into the first issue. It it not pages from the first issue. It doesn’t repeat anything. It is completely new.”

Brevoort joked that, as the editor of both “Invincible Iron Man” and “Civil War II” — which launched with Bendis and Marquez as the creative team — Bendis “completely screwed” him, since Marquez had to take time off from the book to illustrate “Civil War II.”

“It was clear from his work on ‘New Avengers’ that Steve McNiven was the guy,” Bendis said of the original “Civil War.” “Tom screwed me and pulled him off of ‘New Avengers.’ Now I got him back.”

“It was clear just like Steve McNiven that he was the guy, and the same thing was true of David Marquez,” Bendis said. “He is very much a part of Miles Morales’ DNA and success, and he was doing the same thing on ‘Iron Man.'”

Bendis praised the work of another one of his frequent collaborators, “Civil War II” colorist Justin Ponsor. “He is one of the best colorists on the planet. His name is on so many of the best books I’ve been attached to. I hold him in the highest regard. I think he is a master of his craft. I think of him in the way most directors think of their cinematographers. I am honored to have his name alongside his. His contributions are the standard in which other colorists should be judged.”

“Civil War II” #1 will be 40 story pages. “You want to hit the ground running and really make a meal out of it,” Bendis commented.

“In ‘Civil War II,’ there are set-pieces in every single issue, set-pieces that are very different from ‘Civil War I,’ set-pieces different than what you’ve seen in other events,” Bendis said. “Issue #2, our set-piece will be Iron Man and Inhumans at great odds.” “Something very unique” will happen with the Hulk in “Civil War II” #3, Bendis said. “I’m probably going to have to unplug my computer for a few days. Something big happens in each issue, but this will probably be the most debated.”

Next topic were the many “Civil War II” tie-ins that are planned. “Each book gets to tell its own related story,” Brevoort said. Some spin out of direct events depicts in “Civil War II,” some not as directly connected that deal with the larger issues of the story; using “Ms. Marvel” as an example of the latter. Alonso added that there is a great deal of “crawlspace” for writers to construct tie-ins unique to their books.

“There’s so much oxygen for books to play right down the middle and deal with the core question, or dance on the edges of it, and show the more personal ramifications of the issue,” Alonso said. Brevoort called “Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man” a “core series” involving Spider-Man and Ulysses, and it’s a separate series given the trajectory of the ongoing “Amazing Spider-Man” book. Same concept for “Civil War II: X-Men,” which Brevoort said shows that the story’s central premise casts a “fairly grey shadow” on the X-books.

“There are a lot of opportunities,” Brevoort said. “There’s a wide range of opportunities.” He added that he doesn’t want to publish tie-ins that don’t add to the story in a meaningful way.

First question from the press, starting with Marvel.com: “What will Miles Morales role be in ‘Civil War II’?” “Miles’ role in the series, like some other characters as well, will grow and grow and grow throughout the storyline,” Bendis said. “This is where it’s very similar to the original ‘Civil War.’ There are initial lines drawn, with Carol and Tony at the tippy-top. Then as the war grows, other people are brought in — Miles, Kamala and a few other newer Marvel characters, face some hard choices, and have some hard choices made for them.”

Next question, from CBR: Given Tony Stark’s documented regret over the original “Civil War,” how much does that reflect his mindset and what lessons has he learned going into “Civil War II”? “It does absolutely reflect his mindset going in,” Bendis said. “Tony is a thoughtful, genius person. He’s not just a cocky guy who does whatever he wants. he’s faced with a moral dilemma that he knows could bring on the spiritual sequel to ‘Civil War,’ and he’s desperate to not make it happen, but certain things make it impossible. Even after, he still does everything possible to stop it, but he can’t. The same goes for Carol Danvers. One of the things people are worried about online, and this one I can see true worry of, that because I’m the writer of Iron Man and not the writer of Carol Danvers, that I’m going to do a lopsided argument that’s pro-Tony. That is the easiest thing I could do, and not at all what I was interested in as a writer. Both Carol and Tony have very strong reasons behind their perspective, and both will have a lot of screentime. If, anything, I’ve been spending so much time with Carol, and having to re-balance it to have more Tony. But it’s a story about personal accountability, and Tony has that on his mind.”

Next question, from ComicBook.com: Was there an instance of being surprised by thinking a character would be on one side, before realizing they were a better fit for the other? Bendis said that at the planning retreat for the story, nearly every writer want their character to be the Peter Parker of this “Civil War,” starting on one side and then switching to another.

“There have been a lot of surprises for me,” Bendis said. “This is as much Matt Murdock as I’ve written in a long time, that was exciting. When I originally wrote ‘Daredevil,’ you’d see there was never a place for Matt Murdock in any of these events. But we finally do, and that’s exciting. There are people who have literally gotten more panel-time than I originally thought, but once they enter the room, it’s impossible to not want to hear what they say.”

Next question, from Newsarama: One of the preview pages sent to press showed a cosmic being — how does that figure into the story? Bendis said it’s like an Indiana Jones movie or James Bond movie, where the story begins where another one would event, at the conclusion of a major incident that helps shape the story going forward.

Next question, from IGN: What roles do the Hulk and She-Hulk play in the story? “These are all spoilers, I can’t tell you any of this,” Bendis said. “But it’s an interesting time for the Hulks, that’s all I’ll say.” Another question from IGN concerned any similarity between the “Civil War II” premise and the film “Minority Report.” “It is not the same thing as ‘Minority Report,'” Bendis answered.

To use an example, Brevoort said right now there’s one movie out featuring superheroes punching each other (“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”) and another movie featuring superheroes punching each other will be out soon (“Captain America: Civil War”), but fans will see they’re very different despite perceived similarities. “There’s a surface similarity at the outset, and as the story continues, you’ll see it’s very, very different,” Alonso said. Bendis said he’s a fan of “Minority Report,” and it wasn’t far from his mind when putting together the story. “We’re all just living in Philip K. Dick’s shadow.”

Next question, from ComicVine: Will the Ultimates, Howard the Duck or Squirrel Girl be involved in the event? Brevoort replied that the Ultimates will be closely involved from early on, and if “Howard the Duck” are “Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” tie-in, it’ll be done in a way that makes sense to those respective books.

“‘The Ultimates’ is a good example — the idea behind that book snuggles right into what ‘Civil War II’ is about,” Bendis said. “What that team is up to is proactively looking for solutions before things become a problem. That does speak to the more ‘Minority Report’ concern of what this Ulysses character’s powers might offer us.”

“This is an opt-in event,” Alonso added. “There are books like ‘Black Panther’ — that story will continue unabated. However, another new launch, ‘Power Man and Iron Fist,’ will be tying-in. They’ve looked at the story, they’ve found an angle.”

Next question, from The Mary Sue: Have Bendis, Alonso and Brevoort’s “Civil War” points of view changed from the past 10 years? “This is something we’ve thought about,” Bendis said. “What made ‘Civil War’ so unique was the involvement of the readers, and their ability to interact with the story intellectually and passionately.” Bendis said that attitude has continued with the new story, and “may challenge people’s opinions. They may have an idea how they feel, and they may change their mind by issue #1, and the may change their mind again by issue #4.”

When asked by Marvel.com for the “elevator pitch” on “Civil War II,” Brevoort said that rather than distilling it to a quick pitch, the whole of “Civil War II” #1 serves as the introduction to the high concept.

Another question from CBR: If the heroes are fighting each other, will we see what the villains are up to? “Yep,” Bendis said. “That’s a good question, stay tuned,” D’Lando expanded.

“It is not just the villains, but when an idea like this comes down — ‘what is this person doing?’ As soon as those questions are asked, you know it’s a story worth telling,” Bendis replied.

Question from ComicBook.com: Whose side are Bendis, Alonso and Brevoort on? Bendis said he’s on the side of the comic book reader. “I know that sounds cheeky, but when I’m polishing and rewriting something for the 10th time, I funnel it through the idea that this isn’t some indie comic just for me to express myself — this is a book that features all the main icons of popular culture and Marvel Comics, and it’s a big one for them. Make it the best version, or don’t bother.”

“In the recent script I just read, in Page 8 I was on Tony’s side, on Page 11 I was on Carol’s side,” Alonso said. “Then on Page 20, he was back on Mark Millar’s side,” Bendis joked, referencing the superstar writer of the original “Civil War.”

Following a question from Newsarama about the Cheung-illustrated “Civil War II: Choosing Sides” covers that were released as “Civil War II” teasers showing characters with Iron Man and others with Captain Marvel,” Brevoort responded that, “Those aren’t intended to be definitive, they’re intended to encapsulate the whole of the Marvel Universe.” He continued that the images don’t “necessarily reflect, specifically the two sides, partially because over the course of the story, certain characters are going to shift their affiliation.”

Did Bendis talk to longtime “Captain Marvel” writer (and his personal friend) Kelly Sue DeConnick about her portrayal in “Civil War II”? Bendis said he has, and added that he saw a large amount of Captain Marvel cosplayers at WonderCon this past weekend, jokingly interpreting their looks to him as, “You better not fuck this up or we’ll kill you.”

Will there be a “Front Line” miniseries? “‘Choosing Sides’ is kind of the equivalent of a ‘Front Line,'” Brevoort responded, showing what other characters who don’t have books, or have books but are in the middle of other things, will be affected.” While there may not be a media-focused miniseries like “Front Line,” “the world will be watching,” Bendis said, and much more aware of this “Civil War” than the original.

With that, the call wrapped with a recap of key “Civil War II” release dates — the “Civil War II” Free Comic Book Day” story will be available on may 7, “Civil War II” #0 is scheduled for a “little later in May,” and “Civil War II” #1 is scheduled for release on June 1.

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