After Marvel Comics' recent announcement of "Avengers vs. X-Men: Versus," the publisher is set for a full week of reveals in their "Next Big Thing" series of live press conference calls. First up is a whole new arc and direction for "Secret Avengers" with incoming writer Rick Remender and series artist Gabriel Hardman. Remender, Hardman, Executive Editor Tom Brevoort and Editor Lauren Sankovitch were on hand, providing details and teasing the new direction of the fan-favorite book.
Moderated by Junior Sales Administrator James Viscardi, the call kicked off with Brevoort recalling how the creative team came together.
"Knowing that Warren was going to be leaving after a certain point, I was thinking about guys who could take over and Rick was one of the guys that was at the forefront of my mind," said Brevoort. "I actually had an occasion to be in Portland and I saw him at a little get-together. ... Before I could even reach out to him he came to me and said, 'Hey, if 'Secret Avengers' is coming open at some point, I would really dig the chance to pitch on the book.' So he came loaded with all his crazy, mountainous ideas. It was pretty easy to close the gap from there."
"Gabe came out of a conversation that [Rick and I] had about who could draw the series, who could visualize it nicely and bring it the kind of verve and flavor that we wanted," said Brevoort. "His name came up off of the 'Hulk' stuff he had done. Also, his 'Planet of the Apes' work, which I hadn't seen at the time but is really lovely as well."
The Point One issue of "Secret Avengers" will be a stand-alone issue featuring the Masters of Evil. "While it's a big, fast covert-ops spy-fi 20-page romp, it's hard to force yourself to try and define the characters and their relationships when you already know them," said Remender. "I wanted to reestablish that here for people that might not be clear on where these guys stand and their dynamic. It's got real velocity. While it's a big, fast, action story it also defines this complex relationship and dynamic."
Brevoort also said the Point One issue serves as a platform to introduce Hawkeye to "Secret Avengers," where he'll be serving as leader.
"In Cap's eyes, it's his basic skill set. In Clint's eyes, he's a direct approach sort of guy," said Remender. "He's never been a fan of spy work or creeping around in the shadows, but I think that Cap can see if he can use his skill set, an archer can be silent and deadly, playing the role of the cover sniper. An archer's skillset and powerset actually works really well in covert work. I think Cap would vote Clint in most cases, but he's a little concerned about his temper. The Point One issue also sees Cap sniffing around how well Clint can keep his cool in tense spy situations. Other than that, I think Clint's got leadership abilities. He's run West Coast and the Thunderbolts. He's been around for a while. Clint definitely thinks that he's Cap's equal, he's not his subordinate. That definitely plays a role in his dynamic."
"The Point One gives us a taste of the new Masters of Evil," Remender said. "The big launch is 'The Descendants,' and the story is based around a guy named Father who had a hand in creating automatons. These Descendants are the descendents of all the robots in the Marvel Universe." Fans of "Uncanny X-Force" will recognize the threat from that book, but Remender says the robots will not be the primary enemy for the Secret Avengers. "The threat itself is much bigger and I've been working on it for some time now."
"The first species we come into contact with are the Adaptoids." The Adaptoids are derived from the Super Adaptoid and it's something that both Remender and Hardman have worked hard to design.
Hardman also spoke to drawing the Secret Avengers and characterizing each hero. "I actually decided to just draw him as Lemmy from Motorhead," Hardman said of the Beast. "A lot of these people are blonde white guys and the most important thing to me is storytelling and that they're distinct people, that they don't feel generic."
"I think Beast is the most fun to draw," Hardman continued. "I haven't really had a chance to draw Venom in action yet, but I'm looking forward to that."
Hardman also gave his thoughts on Captain Britain. "I have not had a lot of experience with Captain Britain up until now," the artist said. "I've grown to enjoy the character as I was drawing him. At first, Captain Britain, to me personally he was just wearing a goofy ice cream cone of a costume that's very bright, very conventional unitard of a superhero costume that's hard for me to relate to. As I got into it, I went back and read the Alan Moore stuff and paid a little bit more attention to the character and I've come to appreciate him."
Remender said that Venom will be an "odd man out" and reflect the reader's perspective. "Moving forward, Flash will be a guy who grew up idolizing Spider-Man, and after suffering such a catastrophic loss in Iraq with his legs being blown off, dreams of ever accomplishing anything new were taken away," he said. "Now, here he is with the power of Spider-Man, he's also an Avenger. It's like that 18-year-old kid whose band blows up and he meets Madonna. I'm not comparing the Avengers to Madonna, but you get the analogy. [Laughs] Hawkeye is his Madonna. ... Obviously, there's going to be a lot of tension because they'll be looking over their shoulder and asking [why is Venom on my team?]" Remender also hinted that more details on this would be revealed in his "Circle of Four" arc.
In terms of The Descendants, Remender didn't reveal much more about their role in his upcoming arc, but he did tease a bit about their expanded role. "Moving forward, I don't want to give away too much, but the Descendants to me, we've cooked up where every cool robot in the Marvel Universe has a Descendant," he said. "It's definitely something that's going to be a problem for the Marvel Universe going forward. This isn't something that can be swept under the rug. It may be derived from a Doom Bot, but these are things that have opinions. ... The seeds of this were planted in 'X-Force' and I've been writing notes ever since. This was a prime opportunity to dip some Avengers into this. Characters like the Adaptoid, I want to reimagine these guys for Sentinels for Avengers. The Descendants want to be allowed to exist and when you go around the Core, there are billboards all around with Avengers and the text, 'Remember what they did to the Mutants.'"
In terms of possible X-Men interaction, Remender neither confirmed nor denied they would appear with The Descendants. "They do have a hatred of mutants because they were evolved from Sentinels," he said. "There are a lot more Descendants than there are mutants at this point.
Remender also spoke to Hawkeye's leadership moving forward. "If you're not lazy and just going through the motions, you're going to get better at what you're doing," he said. "He is better. He's not the perfect person because he'd be pretty boring to write. I like Hawkeye as a little bitey. I don't see that guy as being a lot of fun to be around all the time. I see that guy as being someone who's a little sandpapery. As a leader if you've got somebody who's going to lose their temper and bark at you makes for some interesting drama. I want to make sure he's great at this. As far as Superhero adventuring ... and leading, he'll be great at it. I still see him as having this difficult side."
The writer continued by speaking to some of what he's doing in "Uncanny X-Force" with the Otherworld. "The Otherworld thing I've been doing in 'X-Force' right now is so fun. The fantasy realm thing is great and 'Game of Thrones' has recently reignited that for a lot of people." Remender also recalled how much he enjoyed the concept of a tower with doors to all realities. "I could write that for a thousand issues."
Brevoort confirmed there will be "Avengers vs. X-Men" tie-in issues of "Secret Avengers," which will start after Remender and Harding's first arc.
Hardman also spoke to his design for the underworld of the Descendants known as the Core. "It's a massive undertaking to design a whole world," he said. "Rick had a lot of stuff that he had in mind for it and he had sent me reference for some sort of shanty townish sort of stuff for the areas that were scarier and low town," he said. "I had also had quite a bit of reference because I also work in movies. One of the main reference points that people pass around is a book called 'City of Darkness.' It's a book about a self-contained shanty world; a huge interconnected city of buildings. That was one of the big touchstone things for me. I always want to ground stuff. Rick loves big ideas and epic stuff. The size and scope of this series was something that drew me to it. At the same time, I want to relate it in something, I want to ground it in something so that it feels like a real relatable place."
Apparently, each of the Descendants will retain some of their original analogues, such as the Doombots retaining traits of Doom, but none of them actually being exactly like Doom.
Tom Brevoort addressed the idea of Hawkeye becoming more like his Ultimate Universe counterpart based on the costume change. "I think a lot of people are worried about that because they've seen what amounts to a surface costume change and that means he's going to be exactly like he is in the movies or exactly like he is in the Ultimate Universe," said Brevoort. "It's not like he hasn't had other outfits throughout the years, and Hawkeye is about to be under the eyeballs of the planet like never before." Brevoort added the costume was meant to be more recognizable for those who come in after seeing "The Avengers," but at the core, he will still be the same character. "Quite honestly, the Ultimate versions of these characters are meant to be fairly quintessential, so there should be a connection between the two."
"If you look beyond the nostalgia factor, so much of that is the iconic aspect of what you grew up with," said Remender. "This design is way sharper in terms of a modern dude who does what Clint does. If you look at that design with the mask, I love it. I love it. But it doesn't make as much sense. This makes more sense for what he's doing."
"He's going to be the character that you remember, he'll just be wearing new clothes," said Brevoort.
"He uses babies as arrows now," joked Remender.
The writer closed out speaking to the lineup of the team. "One of the things I like about this team is that it's a balancing act. If the cast is always changing, it just becomes a kaladioscope of colors. There are characters on this team that are core in my mind, but there are changes coming up. The characters all serve a story point. Those guys are all there for a reason and they serve a purpose in the first arc. The next arc, we will see War Machine." Remender also mentioned the events after "AvX" would impact the title and roster. "What we'll see in that next arc is something that was put together on the fly because things go a little haywire as you would want in an event like that."
"I've got a lot of characters on the board right now. If anything, I need to pull it back."
With that, the call wrapped. "Secret Avengers" #21.1 goes on sale January 25 with "Secret Avengers" #22 hitting February 8.