In March of 1941, the world was on the brink of war with the Axis Powers and in desperate need of a hero to inspire people at home and abroad. The legendary creative team of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby gave them one with a new comic book character named Steve Rogers. Originally a frail youth with a valiant heart, Rogers was transformed by science into Captain America, a costumed, shield-wielding super soldier and the physical embodiment of his nation's ideals. He was so patriotic, the first cover he appeared on famously showed him punching out Adolf Hitler. 23 years later, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby revived the Sentinel of Liberty for the fledgling Marvel Universe, and he's been at the forefront of the publisher's stories ever since.
Thanks to several high-profile storylines about what it means to wield his signature shield and his role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain America's place in pop culture is now bigger than ever and 2016 marks Cap's 75th anniversary. Marvel plans to mark the occasion with a spring crossover event titled "Avengers: Standoff" which features the aged, original Captain America Steve Rogers, current Cap Sam Wilson, their Avengers teammates and the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Politics and the fantastic collide in "Standoff" as the residents of a small town are placed in peril, and the action kicks off in "Standoff: Assault on Pleasant Hill: Alpha," a bookend issue by "Sam Wilson: Captain America" writer Nick Spencer and artist Jesus Saiz, who makes his Marvel Comics debut with the project.
The project was announced by Marvel at their "Iron Man & the Avengers" panel at New York Comic Con and CBR News spoke with Spencer and Executive Editor and Avengers line editor Tom Brevoort about the roots of the story, its scope and scale, and working with Saiz on the "Alpha" issue.
CBR News: I wanted to start off by talking about the roots of "Avengers: Standoff" What can you tell us about the inspiration and origins of this story? With 2016 marking Captain America's 75th anniversary, I'd imagine both Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson will play large roles in the tale.
Nick Spencer: Yeah, the genesis of this event really came from Captain America's 75th anniversary and wanting to make sure we told the biggest and best story around that that we could. So all of the Caps both present and former are major players here. Obviously Steve, Sam, and Bucky as well. We wanted to tell a story that involved all three of those guys.
â€¨So it really began with that and then very organically we were able to spring board it into something that involves a lot of the other characters in the Avengers family.
Tom Brevoort: One of the things I was hoping to do with the all-new, all-different relaunch because I've never been able to quite manage it in the past, was to do a more concentrated and focused Avengers family event; similar to the X-Men events of recent years. Every time we tried that the story would blow up and become a full blown Marvel Universe event. So I wanted to do something that was limited not just to the core Avengers titles, but a small number of books that are all connected thematically and by family and gave you a nice, tight, concentrated story.â€¨Cap's 75th anniversary was certainly a good coat hanger to hang that on. So we went out to the various writers of the various Avengers books, and obviously to Nick as the "Captain America" writer. Then off all the initial thoughts that were bounced around this was the one that seemed to have the most merit and everybody seemed to be into it the most.â€¨So we developed this out. It's going to be our big Captain America 75th anniversary story and Avengers story for March, April, and a little bit of May next year.
I understand a lot of what happens in "Standoff" will have to remain a mystery for now, but what can you divulge about the story? What I've read suggests it's a tale that involves politics, the fantastic, and almost a suburban horror vibe, at least initially. Is that a fair description?
Spencer: Yeah, that's a fantastic way to sum up the various parts. There are some real world issues at play here and some topical stuff that I think the best Marvel stories always have in them; that kind of mirror into our world or comparison point that we can draw something from.
In terms of the setting there's a big focus here on telling a character driven and intimate story with very immediate and pressing stakes. So rather than going huge in scale we focused down and hopefully that makes the dangers in play a lot more immediate and very threatening in their own way. A small town like Pleasant Hill was really the perfect place to set a story like this.
Brevoort: Yeah, one of the things that we talked about a bunch is something that every once in awhile gets lost in modern day super hero comics. It's that every once in awhile you see super heroes who are so busy being super heroes that they don't actually do any saving of people. They're all just involved in their own super hero dramas. They fight, date, or punch other super heroes and there's no context for it.â€¨So sort of very deliberately, since "Secret Wars" was about the biggest thing scale wise you can do, we were very interested in doing something that was much closer to the ground; that put our heroes, super and otherwise, into situations where the lives of real people were on the line. It allows them to prove their heroism and what their made of in a way that's a little more immediate than just fighting giant armored space gods from another galaxy.â€¨There's nothing wrong with that, but with a diet of just that you start to lose a sense of what is actually heroic about these characters. I want to see my super heroes help people, so doing a story that's set at this level puts them in a position where that can be something that is first and foremost in everybody's minds.
Does that mean the characters involved in "Standoff" will all see eye to eye? Or will there be some ideological friction between various characters, something that has been at the heart of some of the X-Men events in recent years Tom alluded to earlier?
Spencer: To me, it's even more rewarding when heroes are able to rise above their differences and put aside whatever internal conflicts they might have to save lives and do good. So I certainly wouldn't say this is a story where all of the heroes are seeing eye to eye. There are some real fundamental disagreements between them here. That is part of the meat of the story.â€¨At the end of the day these are all people who've clocked in to the same job. Their job is making the world a safer place. So it was important to us that that remained as the core of the story.
Brevoort: This won't be as simple as just all the heroes lined up on one side against whoever the bad guys are. As we talked about earlier, there are some genuine issues in play here, and different characters are going to have different points of view on those issues. Hopefully though, all of those characters will still comport themselves in a heroic manner and some consensus will be reached as to what to do in order to save the day and how that ought to be done. If not I'm sure people will punch one another until everything is resolved amicably
"Standoff: Assault on Pleasant Hill Alpha" marks the Marvel debut of artist Jesus Saiz. He's primarily done work for DC, most recently on "Swamp Thing" and "Green Lantern," but the mood and tone of his work, his character design and acting, and his experience with espionage and political books like "Checkmate" suggest he'd be perfect for a story like this.
Spencer: I think that's right. Jesus is an artist that's really come into his own, and he's a really fantastic talent. So I'm excited to be working with him on this. I think it's the perfect start for him here at Marvel.
Finally, approximately how many books will be involved in the "Avengers: Standoff" story? It is just the core Avengers titles? Or will related books like "S.H.I.E.L.D." and, say, "All-New Hawkeye" be part of the tale as well?
Brevoort: It's a relatively -- and I use the term relatively advisedly -- tight group of titles. We haven't finalized every single book that's involved in this yet, but if it's a title that has the word Avengers in it, so "All-New, All-Different," "New," and "Uncanny," it will be involved. "Ultimates" will be involved. "S.H.I.E.L.D." will be involved. Obviously the "Sam Wilson: Captain America" title will be involved, and there are a couple other things that will be involved as well. Hopefully though it won't be so many that it just becomes unwieldy.
I'm hoping that it ends up that every week of the calendar for March and April has at least one and maybe two books that are a part of this or contributing to this. So it's a very simple, easy thing for people to pick up on and follow. It's one purchase a week all the way through 'til you get to the end. Again, there might be a week here or there where there might be two. It won't be two every single week, but I can't guarantee that it won't be two because we have a lot of books and they ship a lot. [Laughs]
This is intended to be much more on the scale of something like "The Black Vortex," which we poured over a lot when talking about this because the structure is kind of similar with an Alpha and an Omega and a story that runs through the actual titles of the actual books. So it's about in the ballpark of "Black Vortex" in terms of number of titles and number of releases.
"Avengers: Standoff" begins this March from Marvel Comics.