Like the ancient mythical beast that inspired their name, Hydra, one of the Marvel Universe‘s most sinister terrorist groups, has seemingly had its head cut off numerous times, only to return stronger than ever. Former S.H.I.E.L.D director Nick Fury and Captain America have been battling the group since it was founded in the final days of World War II, but each major victory they scored against the group only led to the rise of a new and more dangerous incarnation.
Recently it appeared that Fury had finally, definitively destroyed the organization, but in the debut issue of “All-New Captain America,” writer Rick Remender and artist Stuart Immonen revealed that the sinister subversive network had secretly reformed once again. In a wide-ranging conversation with CBR News, Remender discusses the structure of this new Hydra, its agents, its goals, and how it’s all an integral part of the long form story he’s telling with the new Captain America.
CBR News: Rick, let’s kick off by discussing the structure of this new incarnation of Hydra. In the epilogue to “Captain America” #25, we sort of got our first glimpse of the new Hydra in the form of what appears to be the group’s new ruling council, which almost appeared to be more of a mystical group or secret society than a militaristic terrorist organization.
Rick Remender: For that group, secret society is right. They are the Unknown Council. They are not the only new elite sect, though.
When we were building the new Hydra, we designed a number of different sects all operating within a hierarchy. Some of them, like the Unknown Council, are unknown to the other members of Hydra. These people are spies. They are rotten, terrorist spies, and they don’t even trust one another.
There are divisions of Hydra that I set up back in my Winer Soldier miniseries, “The Bitter March,” that have been growing in the background of the Marvel Universe and are now starting to unfold. The members of the Unknown Council are some pretty exciting characters and when you read “All-New Captain America” #2, you’ll get some hints about who they are in general, and the importance of their identities.
â€¨At the same time, you’ve got Baron Zemo and his elite sect composed of a large group of Cap villains who have all joined Hydra because there’s a very James Bondian plot unfolding and they all like the idea. That’s not even the end of it. The plans we have for Hydra are going to be pretty far reaching and have some pretty exciting consequences coming up at the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016.
We’ll start to see a lot of that stuff bubble and come to a boil. You’ll have an idea of what’s going on with one sect of Hydra by the end of “All-New Cap” #6, which will, of course, lead to many questions about the other sects.
So this new Hydra isn’t exactly a centralized organization — it has many different voices and many different cells.
Yes, but there is a prime manipulator of the new Hydra since Baron Von Strucker is dead. When you’re dead in comics, you have to stay dead. That’s just how it is. [Laughs] So there is a new leader at the top of the pyramid. Who they are will be a nice reveal. What it is they’re up to, and how far they’ve already come in this plot, I think is part of the fun of this story.
We get a really good look at that in “All-New Cap” #1-6. We even get a much cleaner look at it during the only “Secret Wars” project I’m doing. It’s going to be something that ties into the Hydra storyline, where we’ll get a look at it from another angle. Then, coming back, there will be some huge stuff for Hydra.
Can you comment on the ultimate goal of this new Hydra? Is it the same as the original group — world domination — or is this new incarnation after something different?
It’s the means they use to accomplish domination that I think is interesting. There are three different plots being moved forward at the same time. We saw the very beginning of one of those plots revealed at the end of “Captain America” #25. You’ll have a good picture of another by the end of the first arc of “All-New Cap.” Then we’ll get into the third a little bit later.
Baron Zemo is not as evil as, say, the Red Skull, but he’s not exactly a hero either. So what’s your sense of Zemo’s moral code and ultimate goal?
I can’t divulge his current ultimate goal without spoiling things, but when you go back through Zemo’s history in books like “Captain America” and “Thunderbolts,” he’s not someone like Magneto, who oscillates back and forth between a redemption arc and villainy, but he is somebody who I think has done that to a lesser degree. In my head, it’s because he’s that thing that all humans are, which is self serving — to a degree. The amount of which he’s able to clamp that down and do altruistic things I think will ultimately be surprising.
The situation we’ve got Zemo in now is one where he doesn’t really think what he’s doing is evil. It’s the classic ends justifying the means. So he’s not Mustache Twirling McGee, but the means to get to his ends are pretty drastic. [Laughs] It was important to me that he didn’t feel self deluded, in that he’s telling himself what he’s doing is good, but he does believe what he’s doing will accomplish something that is good and that benefits him in a pretty nice way.
Zemo’s group also features both the Red Skull’s daughter, Sin, and the Skull’s former chief enforcer, Crossbones. At one point, these characters were lovers, but what can you tell us about the dynamic between them in “All-New Cap?”
Issue #3 is a very Sin-centric issue. I wanted to get to the heart of her evil, and she’s out to crush Sam in a different way than the others are. Crossbones’ issue is really issue #2, and we don’t see a whole lot of him and Sin interacting in the first arc.
Another member in Zemo’s sect with Nazi connections is Baron Blood. Is this a new incarnation of the vampiric villain? Or has the original Nazi vampire been resurrected?
He’s not new. He’s a vampire, so we can resurrect him, right? I wanted Baron Blood back. We’ll have a little bit of dialogue explaining it. With a vampire, I think I can get away with it. If it was anybody else, I think I’d have to spend an issue explaining the resurrection.
Baron Blood is not just there for window dressing. For the plot that Hydra is up to, they needed Baron Blood. So they’ve gone to great lengths to resurrect him and ensure that he’s on board with their plot, and he is.
The team also includes Madame Hydra, who was part of the Hydra high council in the last major incarnation of the group. Is she a team player in Zemo’s faction? Or does she perceive herself as in charge?
She does not perceive herself as in charge. She’s neither in charge or subservient because of the way the new Hydra is structured and their ultimate goal promises wonderful things for all of the elite sects.
They’re all working for a common goal, with Zemo running the program to get them there and all of Hydra now cooperating with them. Then we have the Unknown Council working on the side on another project altogether. Zemo and his crew might not know about the Council’s plans. We start to pull at those threads a little bit in “All-New Captain America” #2.
One of the most unlikely members in Zemo’s sect is Armadillo. What made you want to bring him into Hydra?
There was an era of “Captain America” that I really loved, the Mark Gruenwald era, where it felt a little more light-hearted and like a comic book to me. Madcap, Armadillo and a bunch of other great characters were part of that era. As a kid, I remember thinking Armadillo could be pretty cool.
With Armadillo, you’ve got somebody who’s a giant hulking mass. He can throw cars and kick the hell out of things. I want to save his motives for being part of this until later, but I think it’s a wonderful visual when he turns into a giant ball and starts rolling down the street, crushing cars and causing all sorts of destruction.
I always liked Cobra when he was partnered with Mister Hyde, and Cobra really hadn’t been dug up and played with in a while. I thought, “He’s not with Hyde anymore, but he does like having a big, burly friend.” So Cobra and Armadillo will be hanging out. Issue #4 is our Armadillo and Cobra issue. Every issue of this arc spotlights one villain until Cap is basically a beaten mess and has to deal with a big surprise.
Cobra also has connection to long time Cap villains, the Serpent Society. Any plans for them?
Yeah, I have a whole Serpent Society arc. I’m not sure if we’ll get to it or not, but I have idea on how that cross-pollinates.
It’s interesting that Taskmaster moved from the high council of A.I.M. to a position with an elite sect of Hydra.
I like to think of Taskmaster as a very pure mercenary. He is 100 percent there for a cash payout. There’s also more rewards in terms of what’s going on here.
This goes back to my “Secret Avengers” run, where I had Taskmaster taking contracts for Max Fury. He’s all about taking contracts. The same goes for Batroc [who appeared in “All-New Captain America” #1]. He’s pretty much a pure mercenary.
From listening to you talk it sounds like what you’ve got planned is the biggest Hydra story since Jonathan Hickman’s “Secret Warriors.”
Yeah, and it will be quite a bit bigger than even that. The way I’ve been talking about this with others is as an escalation of Hydra, overall, so that’s what we’re aiming for. I have a big idea that will be revealed in “All-New Captain America” #2. That big idea leads to some huge ramifications down the road.
Hydra has already moved a number of these plots down the field without being caught, as should any good spy organization. Sam ends up catching this story as it’s reaching the climax, and it puts him in a pretty dire position.
So Captain America and Nomad are playing catch up on a world domination plot?
Yes. They are behind the 8-ball from the very moment they discover the plot. Then they unearth more and more as they go on and encounter other spies with bits of information. They’re going to realize that they are late to the dance.
How big a role does Steve Rogers play in your Hydra epic?
We’re keeping Steve far in the background for this first story. There’s still a lot to unearth about his relationship with Ian and Sam, and Sharon [Carter’s] return from Dimension Z. Because this is a new launch and there will be new readers, I wanted to try and open things clean and then start tugging at those other threads once we get the ball rolling.
I really loved the way Stuart Immonen brought to life all the characters and concepts in “All-New Captain America” #1. The man is an artistic chameleon, capable of drawing anything, and it seems like he’s having a lot of fun with the superhero espionage vibe of the book.
Yes, Stuart is the perfect comic book artist. He is as good as they get. He knows how to move camera angles, do action, stage acting and sell humor. There’s a beat in issue #1 where Ian throws the shield and knocks out the other Hydra guys, and there’s a great sense of comedic timing to the way that all played out.
He’s one of the guys where, once the pages come in, you can just cut your script in half because you don’t need to say those things. They’re in the art. That makes for the best possible comics.
â€¨Then, of course, you have Wade [Von Grawbadger] whose inking is literally on par with Kevin Nowlan’s at this point. It’s such a beautiful mix of tight, clean lines, perfect hatching and line variation. He knows where to do the pullouts and where to keep the lines smooth. The whole thing is just beautiful.
Then you’ve got Marte [Gracia], who I think is one of the best colorists working right now. I had the privilege of working with him on “Venom” for a while, where he turned in some issues that just blew my mind. This is no different. He’s so good that he can break rules and make everything work. There’s a scene in issue #2 where they are in a red light district full of all kinds of neon and craziness, and he literally lights the whole scene up with several different colors. He finds a way to make them all harmonize. The whole palette works together.
In terms of art, my collaborators are the team supreme. 80 percent of this is the artist. If I’m doing my job, I’m giving them something challenging that excites them to go off and bring to life. Hopefully I can continue to write visual scripts with heart, but the rest of it is the execution, which comes down to the art team. It’s really hard fumble the ball with these guys.
Finally, let’s circle back and talk about a known Hydra personality we haven’t discussed yet. Was the agent that Nomad uses to open the door in the Hydra facility in Issue #1 in fact Deadpool’s buddy, Bob?
It was two Easter eggs in one. If you’re a comic nerd, it was Bob Agent of Hydra. If you’re a Hip Hop fan, it was a nod to a Del the Funky Homosapien song. I thought it would be kind of funny if Bob, Agent of Hydra’s real name was Bob Dobalina as an homage to one of my favorite songs by Del.
One of the interesting things about “All-New Captain America” was that once Steve Rogers was no longer Cap, I felt like doing a more traditional Cap story. [Laughs] I think what we’re building here is more of a traditional Cap story in terms of the espionage, Hydra, and the rogues gallery, but it’s going to be handled in a different fashion because it’s Sam and Ian behind the 8-ball and they’re the ones that have to solve these problems without Steve’s help.
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