SDCC: Waid Sends the Agents of "SHIELD" on Marvel Universe Missions

"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." debuted on ABC in September 2013, and ever since then -- well, actually even before then -- fans have wondered if Marvel might capitalize on that to some degree on their publishing side.

That answer came Sunday at Comic-Con International in San Diego during Marvel's "Next Big Thing" panel, with the announcement of a "S.H.I.E.L.D." ongoing series written by Mark Waid (also announced at the show to be writing a "Star Wars: Princess Leia" series debuting in early 2015). Scheduled to debut in December -- which will be a few months into the second season of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." -- the series will feature rotating artists on each one- or two-issue story, starting with Carlos Pacheco and also including the likes of Chris Sprouse and Alan Davis.

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This "S.H.I.E.L.D." series is firmly entrenched in the current continuity of the Marvel Universe, not an adaptation of the live-action world -- though TV characters like Fitz, Simmons and Melinda May will make their comic book debuts. And while the "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." TV show has to deal with practical matters like budgets and actors' schedules, the "S.H.I.E.L.D." comic will be able to go as big as it wants to, and bring as many superhero guest stars as fit the narrative. CBR News talked with Waid to learn more.

Mark, though "S.H.I.E.L.D." is obviously a Marvel Universe book, it certainly sounds like it will be at least spiritually similar to the "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." TV show, and that's surely not a coincidence. Are you a fan of the show? How much do you see it -- or the live-action depiction of S.H.I.E.L.D. in general -- as an influence on this comic?

Mark Waid: I am a fan of the show. They've done some things with it that just leave me breathless, particularly near the end of Season One. I wouldn't say it's an "influence," especially, more of an opportunity to do a full-on, in-continuity Marvel Universe version of Coulson and his crew.

One thing the show and the comic definitely has in common is the beloved Phil Coulson as a lead character. As a writer, what do you find interesting about Coulson, and how are you approaching him and his role in this book?

I love Coulson. Love him. In the films, he became immediately humanized by the fact that he was a fan of Captain America's from back in the day. Here, when we have him fully connected to the entire Marvel Universe, we're going to find out that he has a fan-geek level knowledge of all its characters. That doesn't mean he idolizes them all or necessarily even likes them all -- but the reason there will be so many MU guest-stars is because there's no better authority on Marvel Earth than Phil Coulson when it comes to figuring out whose powers and skill sets are the perfect complement to any mission.

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Can you share anything at this point about the other agents on the team? Established characters and new characters? Are folks like Nick Fury and Maria Hill involved? And will characters from the show (other than Coulson) be seen here? (Also, there's a helper monkey?)

Nick, Maria, and the other usual suspects will be players, yes, and we'll definitely pick up elements from all of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s in-universe (and publishing) history. But this also gives us a chance to deep-dive into Fitz and Simmons (by introducing their Marvel Universe versions) and May and all the others. That's the really fun part. Well, that, and making a "Welcome to the MU" gift to Leo of his long-wished-for helper monkey who's not yet named, but "Wacker" is high on my list...

Carlos Pacheco is drawing issue #1 -- what's fun about teaming with him here on the launch of this series?

Oh, man, what's not fun about that? Bombastic adventure and deep character moments, Carlos excels at both. I can't wait to see him dig in.

After Pacheco, it'll be a rotating crew of artists for each story. What do you like about that set-up? Are you looking to alter the tone of stories to fit the different illustrators?

Sure, absolutely -- you always play to the artist's strengths. Chris Sprouse has a slightly lighter touch that's still dramatic as the grave when need be. And is there anything Alan Davis can't master? I can't believe he and I have never worked together.

"S.H.I.E.L.D." appears to be a series of done-in-one single-issue stories, which is fairly unique for this day and age. What made that take the right fit for this book?

It gives us a structure that allows us more range with guest-stars, honestly. Trust me, the hardest thing about writing a superhero guest star into any story is that once they're involved, it's really hard to write them out again -- they're not quitters. The one-part (and sometimes two-part) in-and-done adventures are all mission-specific -- something's happening in the Marvel Universe, and Coulson and his team cherry-pick specific field agents based on their powers and skills. That means that anyone in the Marvel Universe could be tapped, from Captain America to Thor to Groot to Man-Thing.

As an entity, S.H.I.E.L.D. has gone through plenty of various interesting storylines and changes in both the comics and, as anyone who saw "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" knows, the movies. How important is S.H.I.E.L.D. as an organization to this series? Or is more about the agents and their missions?

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It's really more about the agents and their missions, but SHIELD on the whole is facing a bigger, overarching crisis in the series, one you'll see building gradually to a huge, MU-shaking climax.

Speaking of mission -- what kinds will your S.H.I.E.L.D. team be tackling? Obviously a comic book can go as big as it wants, so how much will this group be mixing it up with the major threats of the MU?

Anyone currently in continuity is on the table. So far -- and we're in the early stages, so don't hold me to these -- but we've mapped out stories teaming Coulson and his agents with anyone from the Vision and Baron Mordo to Two-Gun Kid and Iron Man to Daredevil and She-Hulk to Hawkeye and Rocket Raccoon, taking place in the Savage Land, in Lemuria, in the Everglades, on other worlds and even in other times. And all of it "counts" -- there are threads being woven that will show great importance in the coming Marvel Universe.

"S.H.I.E.L.D." is scheduled to debut in December from Marvel with a first issue by Mark Waid and Carlos Pacheco.

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