Teenage Sam Alexander struggles daily to balance life as a teenager, superhero, and one of the last remaining members of the Marvel Universe’s premier intergalactic law officers, the Nova Corps. He’s tried to emulate the example set by his Nova predecessor Richard Rider who saved the universe many times before perishing to end the threat of the Cancerverse in 2010’s “Thanos Imperative” event. Fortunately for Sam though, Richard Rider recently returned to the world of the living in the final issue of the most recent volume of “Nova,” and he’s in need of someone to help him navigate the present day Marvel Universe.
This November, Rider and Alexander will join forces to learn from each other in an all-new ongoing “Nova” series co-written by Jeff Loveness and Ramon Perez, featuring art by Perez and colorist Ian Herring. CBR News spoke with Perez and Loveness about the dynamic between their titular Human Rockets, balancing both the cosmic and superheroic elements of Nova, and the look of the series.
CBR News: This new “Nova” series stars both the current Nova, teenager Sam Alexander, and Marvel Comics’ original Nova, Richard Rider. Rider is a characters that some Nova fans are very passionate about. Why do you think that is? Which elements of Rich’s character do you think have made him a fan-favorite?
Ramon Perez: For me, Rich was like the Han Solo of the Marvel Universe; that brash intergalactic kind of pilot. We have other characters similar to him, but as a galaxy spanning character you can have so much fun with him.
Every kid wants to become that galactic super hero. So maybe that’s what people kind of latched onto; the guy who can go anywhere, do anything, and save the universe at the end of the day
Jeff Loveness: Yeah, he has this great almost sci-fi serial hero aspect to him. He has the confidence of a Buck Rogers or a Han Solo like Ramon said, and he has such a wide power set you can have fun with him and undercut his confidence at the same time. The Richard Rider who defeated the Annihilation Wave is a really fun concept to play with.
Yeah, the “Annihilation” event is where my — and I think a lot of other fans’ — feelings about Rich changed. Before I was like, “Nova? The Human Rocket”? After I was like, “Yeah, Nova! The Human Rocket!“
Loveness:[Laughs] Yeah, you go up a few points in the Marvel Universe when you rip out Annihilus’ intestines through his throat.
[Laughs] What’s it like bouncing Sam Alexander off of Richard Rider? How would you describe their initial dynamic? And how do you think Sam views Rich?
Loveness: So far in the writing and the co-writing that’s been some of the most fun stuff to play with. They’re huge opposites and they play off of each other really well. It’s fun writing this almost buddy cop dynamic in space. [Laughs] That’s what it’s been so far.
To Sam, Rich is like the superhero. You can’t think of a bigger Nova in the universe. It’s almost unfair to Sam how successful Rich Rider was. He was Nova Prime. He had the entire Nova Force. He stopped the Annihilation Wave, and then he gave his life saving the universe from Thanos and the Cancerverse. So it’s almost unfair that Sam had to fill those shoes.
I kind of like playing with the fact that Rich is almost this untouchable hero who does everything perfectly while Sam can’t really catch a break. We also have the inverse of that though in that I feel like we’re setting Rich up to be in a very interesting place. He was this huge superhero. He literally saved the universe, but now he’s back and it’s almost like the universe has moved on without him. Think of how many huge Marvel events have happened since “The Thanos Imperative.”
So Rich Rider has been gone a while. Thor and Captain America are not people that he’s very familiar with at the moment, and the Guardians of the Galaxy have gone through so many changes. He’s really stepping into a world that maybe he doesn’t recognize anymore. So it’s fun to give him more uncertainty than he used to have.
Ramon, as an artist what’s your sense of your title characters? Which of Rich and Sam’s qualities do you really want to make sure you capture in your depictions of them?
Perez: Riffing off of what Jeff said, you have young Sam who is almost like the Spider-Man of yesteryear. He’s like a young Peter Parker. He’s an awkward school kid that has this set of powers he chose to take on in the search for his father. He’s also inexperienced in life, not just with being a superhero. He has bad luck with girls. He’s got kind of a broken family dynamic. Then you have Rich Rider who is this great hero who saved the universe coming back, but like Jeff said, the world has changed.
So how do you display that through body language and expressions? That’s the backdrop on how I’m playing with those characters. So things like how Sam interacts with his school friends or how he visually wears the mantle of Nova will play a big part in the presentation as well as how Rich is brought into the panels and his heroism. When Rich dons the helmet again how does it feel?
I’m going to try and play off those things in so many ways, but another thing I’m trying to do is bring a kinetic energy to the book that seems to have been missing for a while. “John Carter of Mars” early on at Marvel had these flowing, beautiful cosmic landscapes and these grandiose, operatic battles. We’ve got some fun, big ones too.
What can you tell us about Sam and Rich’s respective status quos when you pick up with them in “Nova” #1? Does Sam know Rich returned to Earth at the end of the most recent volume of “Nova”?
Perez: We can’t say much there without spoiling things. Jeff, what do you think?
Loveness: Yeah, all we can say is that Sam Alexander and Rich Rider will cross paths over the course of the “Nova” comic book.
Perez: [Laughs] It’s inevitable. Otherwise it would be a flip book with two separate stories going on.
Loveness: [Laughs] A “Choose Your Own Adventure.” Oh, that would be fun. Let’s put that in our back pocket for like issue #44. [Laughs]
One of the appeals of Nova is he’s a character with one foot in the superheroics of Earth and one foot in the cosmic sci-fi of the Marvel Universe’s interstellar empires. How much balance between those two areas will be in your “Nova” series?
Loveness: That’s definitely one of my favorite things about the Nova world. I love how you can have the relatability of like a street-level Marvel hero like Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel or Daredevil, but then you can go have these wild, intergalactic adventures. I really love the balance between the two, and we’re only a couple issues in, but it seems like we’ve got a great balance. I just finished writing a page about a telepathic space dog giving Sam Alexander advice on how to deal with high school girls. So hopefully there’s some nice compare and contrast between the two worlds.
Perez: Yeah, I think we want to keep a balance because a book that’s out there too much in the galaxy might lose the touchstone of being on Earth in the Marvel Universe. So going back and forth and keeping it balanced is what we’re trying to strive for.
Mentioning Cosmo, the telepathic space dog, is a nice segue way into my next question. What can you tell us about the supporting characters and antagonists your Novas will encounter in the series’ initial issues?
Perez: We’re diving through the back catalog of villains and Nova’s rogues’ gallery. I’m a big fan of bringing back a lot of classic villains that we haven’t seen in a while. We’ve got some fun ones in our first few issues. I don’t want to mention any of them by name though because it would kill the surprise. We’re going deep into the Marvel Cosmic universe though, for sure.
Did you get a chance to do any design work on the villains you’re bringing back?
Perez: Definitely. That’s one of my favorite things; to be able to draw some of these designs from the ’70s and the Marvel aliens. There’s such a rich and somewhat tacky [Laughs] history of characters from the ’60s and ’70s that you can bring back, update, and have fun with. We’ll be touching on some contemporary characters too that were in the last couple of series as well. It’s all about combining the tapestry of our Novas’ histories.
So that includes Sam’s family and friends then? They’ll be regular supporting players in this book?
Perez: Definitely. Like Jeff said, we’re touching both on the personal level in Arizona and the grand, galactic cosmos. So we’re definitely going out of our way to make sure that his family and friends are much a bigger part of the supporting cast then they were previously.
You already teased a little bit about the look of the book. One of the things I enjoy about your work is your chameleon-like style that changes to suit the book you’re working on. So how does “Nova” compare to some of your most recent work on, say, books like “All-New Hawkeye”?
Perez: “Hawkeye” was very much a personal, street-level story. “Nova,” like I said, is bigger and grander because we have the entire cosmos to play with. Then you also have the local stuff in areas like Arizona, New York, and L.A. where we touch base with different characters.
So I’m still playing around with it, but a lot of big influences on my decision making have been series like “Akira” and the great series that Stuart Immonen did years ago, “Nextwave.” That book had this kind of nice, fun flavor to it. I’m really trying to go out of my way to separate it from the last two “Nova” series, which had very classic looks to them. They were traditional Marvel super hero books, and though I’m grateful for what they were, but, especially with the return of Rich and how these characters will interrelate, I want to make sure that our series stands out a lot in the visual sense from the other two.
Whenever you launch a new series featuring prominent and fan-favorite characters, readers are always interested in seeing them interact with some of the other familiar Marvel U heroes. What kind of role will the larger Marvel Universe play in “Nova”? Are you interested in having Sam interact with his teammates on the Champions? Or having Rich meet up with his associates in the Guardians of the Galaxy?
Loveness: We want to keep the story pretty tight on Rich and Sam as they both acclimate to this new world they’re in, but we’re both such die hard Marvel fans. So there’s a fair amount of guest appearances so far. As far as the Champions go, I’m a die hard Cyclops fan. [Laughs] So I will find a way for him to show up somewhere.
Perez: I think it’s inevitable, too, with Rich who was such a grand part of the Marvel U. If he’s coming back from the dead you have to bring in people from his past because they’re going to want to see him and know what happened. He’s going to have to deal with that too. So it’s going to be inevitable that we’ll see a lot of his friends from the past and different series. When and where they’ll appear? I can’t say, but they definitely will make an appearance.
Loveness: Plus old enemies will return as well! Saving the universe earns you some enemies. So I’m excited to play with the fact that when you come back you also bring with you all your old dirt and baggage.
It’s also going to be fun to broaden out the “Nova” world as well as explore the past. I’m excited to build up Sam Alexander’s rogues gallery. Every great Marvel hero needs like six great villains to go along with them. So I’m excited to kind of broaden out the bullpen a bit for Nova.
Perez: I totally agree. He’s definitely lacking in the regular villains department. So we’re going to bring our A-game in trying to give him some good ones.
Finally, it sounds like with “Nova” you guys are building a book that’s one part buddy space opera and one part superhero duo book where your characters will navigate both the turbulent Marvel cosmos and complicated post-“Civil War II” landscape of the Marvel Universe’s hero and villain communities. Is that a fair summation?
Perez: Yeah, I think that’s a good summation. There are some dark elements, but we’re trying to keep the book fun as well. We want a little bit of everything to create a nice diverse flavor for the series.
“Nova” #1 blasts into comic shops this November from Marvel Comics.