The stars of Marvel Comics‘ “Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur” are Lunella Lafayette, a nine year old girl, and Devil her giant, faithful prehistoric sidekick. It makes sense, then, that Devil is the more interesting of the two when the world discovers their friendship. But that’s all about to change, according to writers Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder and artist Natacha Bustos.
Moon Girl is a genius, to put it simply. And not just your run of the mill Mensa member. She is, in fact, the smartest person in the Marvel Universe, a revelation that will bring a whole host of heavy hitters to her door.
Before that happens, she’ll have to resolve the current crop of problems she’s facing in the series’ latest arc, “Cosmic Cooties” — the problematic and dangerous power she received when the Terrigen Cloud awoke her dormant Inhuman DNA, and interstellar brat Kid Kree, who’s trying to impress his parents by capturing Lunella. Fortunately, Ms. Marvel is stopping by for an issue to help out.
CBR News: Let’s start off with the big news: Lunella is the smartest person in the Marvel Universe. Was this something you knew when you launched “Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur?”
Brandon Montclare: Definitely not launching the book. It was something that took a while to get all the pieces lined up.
Amy Reeder: This was Brandon’s idea, and it was really a smart way to go because Lunella has always been proud of her intelligence. She had this Inhuman gene, which led us to figure out what her powers were, but the intelligence was always there. This has always been her thing, and it’s cool that she gets to have this accolade that she always wanted. It all fit into the story, but of course, it’s also a very exciting thing to be able to announce.
Montclare: I think the idea first popped into my head when we were doing the story with Amadeus Cho, the Hulk. It was funny to have the eighth smartest man in the world, and he’s very proud of that, taken down a peg by Lunella. You can read that in many different ways, but when Amy and I put it out there with Natacha it was that Lunella was a bit jealous. She wishes she could be recognized. That’s all she’s ever wanted. So when he goes, “I’m the eighth smartest person” she has to tear that down because she’s jealous.
You have Reed Richards, Doctor Doom, Tony Stark, T’Challa and all these other characters who have been around forever, and it’s kind of a Marvel thing to have these characters who are brilliant scientists first and superheroes second. To me, it was like, “Lunella could use this more.” She’s a new character, and she kind of resists the superhero thing, and takes pride in her intellect. So we wanted to see if we could make that happen. We pitched it to Marvel Editor Mark Paniccia who loved the idea and advocated for it. Marvel got behind it and excited about it, which is great.
We made the announcement this way to get people excited. It could have been a last page reveal, but we thought the more interesting story is going to be how she kind of proves this to the world. So the next arc is going to be about a bunch of challenges and rivalries that arise, and how she’s going to demonstrate that she is in fact the smartest person. It all begins with a device that we showed at Comic-Con and that Amy did the visuals for. It’s something that Bruce Banner had left behind and Lunella is the only one who is able to solve it. That puts her on the path to being proven the smartest.
It seems like this revelation opens the door to the larger Marvel U and allows for a lot of fun team-ups and rivalries. I’m already excited to see how she interacts with Victor Von Doom.
Montclare: [Laughs] You will be seeing a lot of people in the second arc. I don’t want to spoil any of them yet, but that’s the evolution of her character; to be a bigger part of the Marvel Universe. She is finally recognized, and with that recognition comes responsibility and expectations. She’s going to have to change, not be as introverted as she has been.
People have already seen her interact with the Hulk, and in issue #9 we ended with a teaser for her next team-up, which is Ms. Marvel.
Ms. Marvel will be teaming up with Moon Girl in issue #10. What’s it like bouncing these two characters off of each other? The final page of issue #9 suggests Ms. Marvel will be playing a unique role for her in this team-up; that of the older and more experienced hero.
Reeder: Yeah, and that’s something we did in the Hulk appearance as well. Usually these teen characters are kind of seen as these novices, but when they’re around Lunella they’re suddenly thrust into the mentor position.
In the story with the Hulk, that didn’t really work out all that well between the two of them. You’ll see, though, that it works kind of differently with her and Ms. Marvel. I think Ms. Marvel has a bit of a sweeter touch to her. We’re really looking forward to showing people the interaction between them, because that’s one of the things fans have been asking for the entire time, “Please team up Moon Girl and Ms. Marvel.” It’s finally happening.
Montclare: In a lot of ways, we try to do opposites. Ms. Marvel loves being a superhero, while Lunella has a bunch of things on her list of what she wants to accomplish and superheroics just kinds of happen to her.
So, as Amy said, she’s a mentor, but not a scientific mentor. She’s not a genius where they can solve engineering problems together. She is maybe someone Lunella can relate to a little bit better than Amadeus because they have similar backgrounds as Inhumans, and they’re both heroes.
Also in the equation is Kid Kree. He’s an interesting adversary for Lunella in that he’s a misfit trapped in a culture that he doesn’t really fit into, and he’s not really evil, just bratty.
Reeder: [Laughs] Part of what we’re able to get away with at Marvel these days is, this isn’t the traditional kind of villain. They just look ultra threatening. He’s someone that Lunella could possibly even come to identify with and we definitely can as readers. He’s not the greatest at his job yet. He’s still figuring it out, and he seems to have some sort of empathy for Lunella.
Montclare: So many of the villains from fantasy and science fiction have motivations that involve propagating evil. It’s not just comics. It’s “Star Wars,” “Lord of the Rings,” things like that. And yes, there are some horrific people in the world, but very few people are motivated by pure evil, or at least they don’t think they are. I don’t think Kid Kree is really a bad guy at all.
We’re interested in doing something a little different with our villains. Kid Kree’s worst quality is that he’s a pain, whether he’s Kid Kree or in his secret identity of Marvin Ellis. It’s hard for him to not be an annoyance. He’s got to make his way in the world. He’s on his own. He wants to impress his father. He’s got a lot to figure out.
Complicating Lunella’s team-ups, battles and life in general in this arc are her frequent body switches with Devil Dinosaur. I know there’s still some mystery as to how that all works, but is this the ability that Terrigenesis endowed her with? Or is there more to be revealed?
Reeder: This is basically it. This is what being an Inhuman is for her, but it’s also something she’s developing and discovering how it works. So we’ll reveal things like what the restrictions are, but it’s not like we plan for her to be able to fly in addition to this.
Montclare: This is her power, but Lunella doesn’t know if she’ll be able to get it under control and if the switch will ever become permanent. So she has all kinds of fears.
Reeder: We basically wanted to give her a power that was almost more of a disability. So we could kind of emphasize the fact that she’s got these huge smarts, and also to keep Devil Dinosaur as kind of the cool thing that she has. So this will really link them together.
Montclare: It’s also a continuation of her fear of Terrigenesis. She can’t say, “I went through it and now everything is okay.” Her transformation as she’s experienced so far is, as Amy said, definitely a handicap. It’s not just a bad thing, but maybe the worst thing that could happen to her. Even though her intelligence is preserved, the body switch aspect is like she’s losing her mind.
In between school, the lab and adventuring, Lunella doesn’t seem to have much of a time for a social life. It does look like this current arc is developing more of a supporting cast for her, with classmates like Eduardo and Zoe. Will they play significant roles in the book moving forward?
Montclare: I like working with those characters, and I think [artist] Natacha [Bustos] really likes working with them. We’ll see them if space allows.
If each issue was a hundred pages and took 10 minutes to draw, there would be a lot of side adventures with those characters. But what’s important is to make them work in small doses and make them memorable. You definitely want people to care about them.
That’s another thing that’s hard to develop in an era of frequent relaunches; a memorable supporting cast. You want to give those characters moments, but we have had to keep pushing back this cool four page scenes we have with Eduardo. That makes you realize that you’re only going to be able to get small doses of those characters. So you really have to make them count or they’re going to be throwaways. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be an in-between.
Reeder: Natacha really brought those characters to life and made us want to write them more. There’s just something special about that group mentality she’s able to create.
Montclare: Natacha definitely deserves a lot of credit. Early on when I was doing my part of the script for issue #3 or #4, I had to go back and ask, “Wait, which character is that?” Because oftentimes I just throw in a name for characters in the background, but when Natacha first drew him, he looked so cool and had such great expressions. So if I was going to use a classmate, I wanted to use him.
When “Cosmic Cooties” ends, Lunella’s life is going to change in a big way. What does that mean for the tone and feel of “Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur?”
Montclare: What I think is important, creatively, is that you don’t lose what’s worked for the first nine issues. She is going to be becoming a big, important part of the Marvel Universe, and we’ll be expanding the things she learns about herself and the world, so to speak. But I think you’re always going to have to have her in a certain position; one where she’s struggling.
She’s definitely growing up, but I don’t think it’s going to be a radically different book. We’re not trying to change the tone. I think what we’re doing will keep everyone super happy, and new people picking it up are in for some exciting stuff too.
So she’s very much a Peter Parker-style underdog character.
Montclare: Yeah, she doesn’t have a lot of luck. I also think “with great power comes great responsibility” can also be interpreted as, “be careful what you wish for.” She wanted the recognition, and now everyone is going to know who she is, and some people will have plans for her.
What can you tell us about the new story that kicks off in issue #13?
Montclare: All we can say is, it’s a six-issue arc. There’s going to be six guest stars, and they’re all Marvel heavy hitters. I’ll let people fill in the blanks. Every issue will feature somebody from a different part of the Marvel Universe.
Reeder: I see this whole thing she’s undergoing as almost an Arthurian, pulling the sword out of the stone-style test. Now that’s she done that, she has to face all the challengers in her new state. She’s going to embark upon an unintentional quest to prove herself.
Montclare: Yeah, it’s not going to be just her ego. It will be the circumstances beyond this space age Rubik’s Cube that Bruce Banner left behind. For people who ask, “What’s she ever done?” That’s kind of the point of the next arc, “The Smartest There Is.” There will be no doubt at the end of issue #18 that she’s got a lot of brains.
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