Marvel's State of the Initiative with Dan Slott

Following conversations with Brian Bendis and Brian Reed,

Marvel Comics recorded its third in a series of three State of the Initiative podcasts Tuesday afternoon, featuring an interview with Avengers: The Initiative writer Dan Slott. Jeff Suter, Marvel's Senior Art Director, officiated the event.

Suter began the discussion by mentioning some of Slott's past work, including the fan favorite She-Hulk. Slott chimed in to praise current She-Hulk writer Peter David. Suter also brought up Slott's early days interning at Marvel, when, among other responsibilities, Slott was in charge of leading school tours through the offices. At the end of the day, I would introduce them to Spider-Man himself, in person! Slott said.

Asked about his perception of the state of the Initiative, Slott talked about the superhero training program. Right now, there aren't teams set up in every state quite yet. The Initiative is now training kids, and will be shipping them out to other states, Slott said. We're coming up on our first graduation, where you'll start to see whether some characters made the grade or wash out.

Slott also suggested some heroes may go AWOL, although what he actually said was AOL. No, that's not what I mean, that's something very different, he corrected. That would be like joining DC or sending an instant message.

Slott described the Marvel Universe as a much scarier place after 'Civil War,' where you're either on the run or with The Man. 'Avengers: The Initiative' is a book about being with The Man.

Running down some of the most prominent heroes from  Avengers: The Initiative, Slott characterized Hank Pym as someone who is all over the map and the one most on the fence about a lot of things. He's the one being pulled in the most directions. He's working in the Initiative Science Division with Hank Gyrich, then he's also working with War Machine, who sees everything in relation to SHEILD. And then he's also got his strong ties to the Avengers.

Moving on to discuss War Machine, Slott said that Jim Rhodes will soon realize that he doesn't have as much control over this installation as he thought he did. He's sort of become the odd man out. Slott also said, though, that there is something more significant to note about War Machine's appearances in Avengers: The Initiative. We haven't seen him out of that mask yet. Seven issues and that faceplate hasn't lifted up.

Slott also talked about the two former New Warriors who appear in this series, Justice and Rage. The writer said Justice had been trying to be this team's Jiminy Cricket, but we've seen that hasn't worked out for him. And now he's gone rogue. Slott added that Rage appears on the cover of Avengers: The Initiative #10, which bears the tagline Killed in Action. Fans have been saying we have way too many characters. Some of our 'Previously in... pages clock in at sixteen headshots, Slott said. The four-part story 'Killed in Action' is really going to thin the herd, drastically. No one is safe, even characters who have been around, who have always been fan favorites. Some will live, though--when it's done, we're still going to be putting out a book called 'Avengers: The Initiative,' and it will feature characters that can walk and talk.

Asked if having so many new faces around was a bit Skrully, Slott admitted there was a possibility of Skrulls in the Initiative. In issue #8 we learn of one new Skrull on base... but maybe not the way you think, Slott teased. He also indicated that this week's Avengers: The Initiative Annual #1 would reveal something very Skrully about the Initiative program in toto.

Suter asked Slott if he felt that Tony Stark was right all along, from his role in Civil War to creating the Initiative. Slott replied, Well, once it's revealed that Tony's a Skrull -- OH!

Slott said he appreciates the humanity of Marvel's characters, and that he considered it a good thing that a reader could potentially identify with both sides in Civil War. As to an answer about whether history will absolve Mr. Stark , Slott said, Eh, he's a futurist. So yeah, why not.

The 50-state Initiative, in theory, is a great idea, Slott continued. A well-trained superhero police force to protect the People. But communism is also a great idea in theory. We've already seen these characters screw up, we've seen the Initiative manipulated by various agencies; there's nothing that's built that can't be bent toward somebody's ends.

Slott also noted that Tony Stark may be spreading himself a bit thin between the Avengers, leading SHEILD, and his own solo adventures. Good thing he's keeping an eye on the Initiative!

There were some characters Slott didn't want to talk about, to avoid revealing or suggesting who lives or dies. I will tell you about Triathlon, though, he said. Not all of the heroes are down there [on the Initiative compound] to learn how to be heroes; some are there to learn how to be leaders. After he's finished training to be a leader, Triathlon will be the new 3D Man, who was the old Skrull hunter from the '50s. Fans of Triathlon will either really love us or really hate us.

As to what's coming up, Slott indicated that the Eric O'Grady Ant-Man character will join the Initiative in issue #8, and the issue would also see Yellowjacket make one of the worst decisions of his superhero career.  It will have horrible repercussions that lead straight into 'Killed in Action,' in which no one is safe. Except for Triathlon.

Slott said that unlike Bendis' Skrull-related series, Avengers: The Initiative would not reveal all its Skrulls at once. That might be fun in Bendis-world, Slott remarked, but we're going to hide guys. They're going to pop out of boxes and say, 'Ah! I'm a Skrull!'

The writer said clues to look for would be fairly basic. If you see a character eating a kitten, he's probably a Skrull. So look for that, between two pieces of bread, look for that little cat tail squeaking out.

Now discuss this story in CBR's Avengers forum.

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