Marvel's Next Big Thing: Captain America

When Captain America throws his mighty shield next, the man behind the mask will once again be Steve Rogers as Marvel Comics is preparing a relaunch of the red, white and blue hero's monthly comic this July to synch up with Cap's forthcoming big screen adventure. And while the two men shepherding this latest run of Cap comics - writer Ed Brubaker and artist Steve McNiven - are not at all new to the famed patriotic superhero, both are looking to change things up by the time "Captain America" #1 hits the stands this summer.

Both men joined Marvel SVP of Publishing and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort for Marvel's latest "Next Big Thing" press call Friday to dig in to their plans for the star-spangled Avenger.

The call got started with talk of the funeral glimpsed in McNiven's preview pages with Brevoort noting. "It picks up on a specific moment, and as with many other Captain America stories, it springboards off things Steve has experienced in the past in the World War II era...a mission and adventure he was part of in the '40s, the ramifications of which are just being felt in the present."

Asked how the return of his uniform affects Rogers' view of himself, the editor noted, "The suit is no so much a mantle as a uniform he's worn while fighting in service of the American dream all these years...I don't think he thinks of himself as Captain America."

Brubaker joined the call a bit late after some phone trouble prompting Brevoort to quip "This is why the book will be late!" However, soon the writer was sharing his thoughts on the funeral scene and saying that it helps show the cast of the book. Brubaker revealed the funeral would be for Peggy Carter. "The last time we saw her was just before 'Cap: Reborn.' She's an old S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and was living in a retired care facility for old secret agents." The writer joked that the character was "slightly problematic" since she was originally meant to be Sharon Carter's older sister yet he changed Peggy to Sharon's great aunt.

"I thought it would be really poignant for anyone who knew the character at all but especially for people who just saw the movie where she's one of the three main characters...it also tied back to the idea I wanted to get to of Steve Rogers being a man out of time...he's still fighting a war in his head."

Of the incoming movie, Brubaker said "I probably watched that previous on X-Box more than anybody" and noted that he read parts of the script but was unable to make it to the set because of family responsibilities. When he saw "Thor" he realized he could have made it on screen. "I could have been a Nazi getting killed!" he laughed. "I guess Joe Johnston made reference to my comics a lot while making the movie and how I made 'Cap' feel real world while being a superhero book at the same time."

Speaking on Rogers, the writer said "He set the bar...Steve was always this guy who tried to do the right thing, even when he was a 98 lbs. weakling," he said. "He never wanted to be Captain America. He was just supposed to be part of a troupe of super soldiers...but once it fell to him, he had no choice but to become something bigger than himself. He enjoyed his time away from that, but once Bucky was put on trial, he knew it was coming back to him."

Brubaker said that he was relishing the opportunity to put Steve Rogers back in place after a long absence. "The thing about my 'Captain America' run that is different than most people is that Steve wasn't in about 50% of the book," he laughed. "I feel I was just building up steam, and my idea of killing Cap was going to come later, and he wasn't going to be dead that long...it was just the circumstances of things made me move the storylines around. This is really the first time since 'Civil War' I feel like I get to cut loose with Steve again.

"Captain America Steve Rogers was my first Marvel character as a kid, and I've always wanted to write that character." Brubaker went on to say that while he wants the run to ramp up the big James Bond-like action while also reflecting the mood of America today.

McNiven said that he hasn't changed much in his general art approach to draw "Captain America" and referred to himself as a "one trick pony" to which Brevoort replied "But it's a GREAT trick!" Brubaker said the pages were the work of the artist's career. McNiven promised "A lot of shield throwing."

The infamous theme song from the '60s Marvel limited animation series came up, and Brubaker opined that the song's lyrics made it seems as though only those who chose to oppose Cap's shield must yield to it. So the easiest way to beat the hero is to chose to not engage him.

On a more serious track, the writer said despite the big changes in the book over the past few years, he never had to put off what he wanted to do as he writes fast and loose. "I did stuff I wanted to do regardless," he said. "My initial plan was that the Red Skull's revenge on Steve would have taken place around #30 instead of 25." However, when the death of Rogers and the popularity of Bucky came about, the writer barreled through with a modified take on his original plans. "I did my big Red Skull stories all the way through 'Reborn' and now I'm doing something I've always wanted to do, which is create new Captain America villains...I want to create new villains that people will care about and team them up with old school Cap villains a bit."

And his longtime love for the book has had an impact on Brubaker's run as well. "Part of 'Captain America' I liked as a kid was that when Watergate happened, there was this weird conspiracy theory that the president was involved in," he said, noting that the trick is to make the content feel like a superhero story and not just a straight political drama. "In my mind, I don't want to look at a specific thing and say 'I want to address that'...you just have to look at the general feel of what's impacting people, and if there's a way to make that a layer, that's great. The important thing to remember is that it's 'Casino Royale' and not 'All The President's Men.'"

The writer said his main challenge in this new #1 was to not lose any of the readers who have been following him for seven years on the comic while also making a package that anyone who's seen the movie could come right out of the theater and pick up. "This is the next extension of what's been happening for a long time, he said, and before that, there are some twists coming up to put Rogers back in the costume.

Falcon will definitely be a part of the series as the writer joked, "Steve wants to draw all those feathers!" Brubaker praised his artist as someone where "Everything comes back more exciting than I pictured it."

The pair are working together to make the new villains in the series shine. They joked that the process was easy and fun, while Brubaker said of the first villain, "He's got a lot of ties to Steve's past in World War Ii, and that's a lot of what the story's about...I wanted to come from another Man Out of Time but as a villain because that's nothing we've seen done before."

As for the lead himself, the artist said "I don't want to tweak the design. We don't have to do movie stuff or a rubber mask. I just want to stick with the classic costume." He joked that he wanted to change characters in past work like Jack-O-Lantern in "Civil War" but Cap remains the same. The biggest challenge in Cap's costume is making the scales on his shirt work and knowing when to stop drawing them.

This version of "Captain America" will not initially focus on guest stars like the Avengers. "I want to make sure that it focuses primarily on Steve - Steve and Sharon really," said Brubaker.

Brevoort then noted that the team would be bringing back a "very obscure" Marvel character from the Golden Age. "There is a character in the first arc who is a genuine 1940s character who hasn't been seen in 60 years." Brubaker said historian Jess Nevins helped him discover this character while they were researching "The Marvels Project" and while the character didn't fit there, the writer was excited to include "one of the strangest Marvel characters ever."

Brubaker played coy when the fate of Bucky Barnes came up. He didn't want to ruin any of the upcoming stories, but he did say, "I hope people have faith that we know what we're doing a little bit." The writer also revealed that Hydra will play into the first arc. "They're a slightly different version of Hydra than we've ever seen before, which is part of the mystery of the book...my favorite run on 'Cap' is the three issues that Steranko did, so I've always wanted to use Hydra."

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