NYCC: Humphries & Marts Open Up Marvel's "The Black Vortex"

The heroes who protect the spaceways of the Marvel Universe face a variety of large scale threats. Some are powerful enough to destroy or take over a planet, but there are a few dangers with a scope and scale as vast as the area these heroes patrol. When these universe changing perils break out, Marvel's cosmic defenders must unite to protect all of creation.

This February, the next major cosmic crisis erupts as an ancient and powerful artifact reemerges and a number of great intergalactic powers and power-hungry villains come gunning for it. The action will unfold in "Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: The Black Vortex", an epic crossover event that begins and ends in two bookend issues featuring art by Ed McGuinness, and runs through "Guardians of the Galaxy," "Legendary Star-Lord," "All-New X-Men," "Nova," "Cyclops," "Captain Marvel" and several other yet-to-be-revealed titles. The crossover was announced by Marvel yesterday at their "Cup O' Joe" panel at New York Comic Con and CBR News spoke with Executive Editor Mike Marts and "Legendary Star-Lord" writer Sam Humphries about its structure, the titular artifact, and the books involved.

CBR News: Marvel's cosmic titles have a rich legacy of big crossover stories and "Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: The Black Vortex" is the first big event story for this new cycle of cosmic books in the Marvel NOW! era. How long has this story been in the works? And how does it compare to previous cosmic events like the "Annihilation" crossovers, "War of Kings," "Realm of Kings," and "The Thanos Imperative?"

Mike Marts: I believe the idea for this particular story existed prior to my return to Marvel. So it may have been something that was talked about as far back as a year ago, but we really got into the meat of it at a story summit back in April. A lot of this came out through discussions with Sam about what we were going to do with the new "Star-Lord" title. Then Brian Bendis quickly joined in. He was excited about the idea and had some thoughts on how the Guardians of the Galaxy could be involved. Then before you knew it we had full blown cosmic storyline on our hands. So it was pretty exciting.

Then to answer your second question about how it differs from previous events, this is a completely different story that ventures into territory that we haven't explored before. It is similar though in that we're approaching it with an "everything but the kitchen sink" attitude. We know people pick up the cosmic titles because they want to see a bunch of different characters and different alien races. They want to explore different planets in the galaxy. They want to visit extremely exciting locales. So we're going to give them all of that in this storyline.

Sam, what do you want readers to know about the "Star-Lord" issues leading up to this event? How do they help set the stage for the "Black Vortex?"

Sam Humphries: "Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: The Black Vortex" is a Marvel cosmic event, and you can't achieve that epic scale without planting some seeds in advance. The Black Vortex is an ancient artifact with the power to unlock the cosmic potential within yourself. Imagine the metamorphosis that turned Norrin Radd into the Silver Surfer -- or Jean Grey into Dark Phoenix -- available to you. This is an artifact with the ability to change any character, or alter the Marvel Universe forever, and it will make its debut in "The Legendary Star-Lord" #5.

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You're no stranger to these big crossover collaborations having worked on a few for the Ultimate Universe. How does it feel to be back working with other writers on a big story? What do you enjoy most about writing these types of crossovers?

Humphries: It's amazing. I pitched this event at two Marvel retreats and set up the event outline, but I give all the credit to my co-authors -- Brian Bendis, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Gerry Duggan and more -- who have made this event truly epic. With them, our editors Mike Marts and Katie Kubert, and our fantastically talented artists, "Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: The Black Vortex" has become one of the most electrifying stories ever to hit the Marvel Universe.

Marts: The excitement that's been building around this storyline has spread throughout the entire editorial staff and certainly with the creators as well. After a long weekend Sam and Brian will send us a long e-mail with a bunch of new ideas and it's just been so exciting to work on this thing and to see it come together. Now that we're finally getting into the real production stage of things and starting to talk about art work it's like seeing a child born in a way. So it's really exciting and we're anxious to get this story out to the readers.

How is "The Black Vortex" structured? The story begins in "Black Vortex: Alpha" but does it flow in a linear fashion from one book to the next? Or is it structured differently?

Marts: It does follow an almost chapter format. We kick things off in February with the "Alpha" issue and we wrap things in an "Omega" issue in April. Both of those bookends will have the same creative teams. Then we'll have about 10-12 chapters in between and those chapters will span across various different Marvel monthly titles.

The story really does flow from one issue to the next. So if people want to get the complete story they'll want to tune in for all parts.

Let's talk a little bit about "Black Vortex: Alpha" starting with its artist Ed McGuinness."

Marts: Yeah, we were extremely lucky to get Ed excited about this project. For the last half year Ed has been contributing in a major way to "Guardians of the Galaxy" and this just seemed like a natural progression for him. It was almost too easy of a sell. When I told him what it was about and who was involved he signed up right away. So we're extremely fortunate to have such a good anchor artist on the series.

Humphries: Ed McGuinness is the perfect choice for "Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: The Black Vortex" He's so amazing at drawing epic action scenes and amazing galaxy-scapes, I suspect he grew up as a gladiator on Saturn. I can't wait for people to see what he's got going here.
Let's talk a little more about the story Ed is drawing and the titular artifact. In the "Alpha" story will we learn more about the history of the Black Vortex and its transformative powers?

Marts: You will. The Black Vortex has existed for eons in the Marvel Universe, but for reasons which we'll learn in this storyline the artifact stayed hidden for a long time.

Humphries: The Black Vortex can change anyone into a titan of the cosmos. That gets a lot of characters' imaginations firing. "What if I submit to the Black Vortex? What if a bunch of my people do? What if an entire planet does?" "Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: The Black Vortex: Alpha" starts ten billion years ago at the birth of the Marvel Universe, and potentially ends in a transformed cosmos.

Marts: We will see the Black Vortex surface and make an appearance in the pages of "Legendary Star-Lord" over the next few months. So if people want to see how this whole event came together and get a little background on what this artifact is about they might want to check out the next few issues of "Star-Lord."

Humphries: Like we said, the seeds for this event have been planted in "The Legendary Star-Lord" all along -- and Peter has been as unaware as our awesome readers! For a character who gets by on his wits, it's going to take some fortitude for Peter to confront an object like the Black Vortex -- an object that can change everything.

Let's talk a little more about the titles involved in "The Black Vortex" starting with the team books. What can you tell us about the "All-New X-Men" and the "Guardians of the Galaxy's" involvement in this story?

Marts: What's great is we saw both of these teams interact with each other last year in "The Trial of Jean Grey." I think that laid the foundation for some fun interaction between these two amazing groups of characters. Of course at the forefront we have the romantic relationship that is blossoming between Peter Quill and Kitty Pryde, but beyond that we have a lot of interesting relationships developing amongst the two teams.

I can promise some great comical moments between young Iceman and Groot and some friction between Storm and Gamora. That's really just the beginning too. We'll have a lot of interesting interactions between the two groups during this run.

You said Storm and Gamora?

Marts: Yes, so even though "All-New X-Men" is the primary X-Men title involved in this book that doesn't exclude other X-characters from participating. So you will see a few other characters like Storm, Beast, and Magik get involved.

Let's shift to some of the solo books involved like "Legendary Star-Lord," "Captain Marvel," "Nova," and "Cyclops. What kinds of roles will these characters and their solo titles play in "The Black Vortex?" With "Cyclops" involved does this mean we'll get a full "All-New X-Men" reunion?

Marts: The nice thing about all the solo titles is that they all tie-in naturally and organically to the overall story. And yes, this will be the first reunion between Cyclops and his other original X-Men teammates. So that should be exciting for readers.

Then we have Captain Marvel participating and since she's been a member of the Guardians the last few months that's a natural fit. Nova is participating and it will be exciting to see him get involved on some different levels. He may have some objections or agendas that are different from the other heroes.

Then of course the prime motivating figure in this entire storyline is Star-Lord. He's going to be front and center throughout this entire thing. So we hope people enjoy the character of Peter Quill because he's going to be around for most of this storyline.

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Sam, one of the joys of writing crossovers is the chance to play with other writers' toys. Which characters in "The Black Vortex" that you don't normally write are you especially enjoying writing? What do you find most intriguing about these characters?

Humphries: I've already been borrowing Kitty Pryde from Bendis. I've been having a lot of fun with Beast, Captain Marvel, Nova and the original five X-Men. What's great is finding new connections and friendships between these characters. Of course, it's not just new alliances being formed, but old friendships broken, characters confronting dark things about themselves they'd rather ignore -- drop an artifact with the power to change everything amongst a group of driven characters, and watch them explode.

Of course, the heroes aren't the only ones out to recover the Black Vortex. I understand that a veritable who's who of nefarious intergalactic figures and great powers will be gunning for it as well, is that right?

Marts: Exactly, we have Mr. Knife, who is currently causing trouble over in the "Star-Lord" monthly series. He'll be involved. Thanos' son Thane will be participating in this event. There will probably be a few alien races that readers have come to dread over the years, and there will be some new players too; new faces on the villains' side of things who will certainly throw monkey wrenches into the heroes' plans.

Sam, Mister Knife is a mysterious character that's slowly emerging from the shadows in "The Legendary Star-Lord." What else can you tell us about the character and his role in "The Black Vortex?" Just how dangerous is he?

Humphries: Mister Knife is central to the events of "Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: The Black Vortex," and he is someone who is very, very dangerous. He sees the cosmos like a toy store, pulling pieces and people together for his grand plans with little thought as to the consequences for anyone but himself. More than that -- you'll have to wait for "The Legendary Star-Lord" issues #5-8!

Finally, Not all of the books involved in "Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: The Black Vortex" are being revealed now. What can you tell us about the books being announced later?

Marts: There are a few additional books that will be involved and I can't say any more about at this point and time. Maybe one or two could be something new, and one or two of them could be books already existing. We'll announce those other books at a later date.

"Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: The Black Vortex" begins in February from Marvel Comics.

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