As part of Marvel's Free Comic Book Day offerings on May 7th, readers will get to see Steve Rogers once again pick up a shield as Captain America following over a year and a half away. Ahead of Rogers' momentous return to the mantle in "FCBD Captain America" #1, Marvel is conducting one of their semi-regular "Next Big Thing" conference calls. The FCBD issue will lead into an ongoing series, "Captain America: Steve Rogers," which will launch later in May and serve as a companion series to the current "Captain America: Sam Wilson" book. Nick Spencer will write both books, with Jesus Saiz serving as artist on "Steve Rogers."
Talking "Captain America: Steve Rogers" with the comic press today are Spencer as well as Executive Editor Tom Brevoort. CBR will be updating this article live with a full report of the discussion. Up first, take a peek at some of Jesus Saiz's pages from "Captain America: Steve Rogers" #1.
Marvel PR's Chris D'Lando kicked off the Q&A by discussing the end of "Avengers Standoff," commenting on the number of big developments in the final chapter. The biggest development is that Steve Rogers is young again and Captain America again. D'Lando asked Spencer to talk about what his return to the field will affect him and his status quo.
"Steve is faced with some pretty major challenges," said Spencer. "Obviously he's undergone a physical transformation and emotional transformation, so he has to readjust. He's got to deal with being a man again and the world around him, we're on the precipice of 'Civil War II' and the Red Skull has taken the reigns of HYDRA and made them more direct and brutal. Baron Zemo is still out there, trekking through the Himalayas with Dr. Selvig as his prisoner. Steven is facing it from all sides. Maria Hill is about to undergo a secret tribunal because of her actions in 'Standoff.'"
Spencer also spoke about the rogue's gallery, which features classic villains like Zemo and the Red Skull, as well as Crossbones and Sin. "Over in Sam's book, we've been looking at concepts that were on the shelf for longer, and the villains were either newer or ones that were M.I.A. for a while," said Spencer. "To deal with big deal bad guys is a big deal for me."
Brevoort spoke about how Red Skull affects "Uncanny Avengers," saying that his return gives the team another person to "punch and hit." "It'll also have an effect on that book because of late, that's been a team where Rogue has taken the point position as the leader in the field, but now with Cable hanging around -- who is an alpha male -- introducing a fully rejuvenated Captain America to the mix means there may be too many chiefs at the table."
D'Lando touched upon the differences between the style of Caps that Sam and Steve are, with Spencer saying that Sam Wilson's strength is the contrast. "It's how he's treated differently and how the world resists him and how he encounters controversy that Steve might now, and how his beliefs might encourage that," said Spencer. "Getting Steve back in the costume helps Sam's story because the contrast is clearer. News of Steve's return is greeted with open arms, and Sam is trying to figure out his place now that Steve's back, and he'll struggle with that for a while to come. There's a lot of great drama to mine having both of them around."
Jesus Saiz will be the artist on "Captain America: Steve Rogers," and Tom spoke about his work. "Stylistically, Jesus is not that far removed from Daniel Acuna who is drawing the 'Sam' book," said Brevoort. "They're not the same guy, but they do everything -- penciling, color, package complete. We were looking around for folks in that vein, but really -- and people say this all the time but this is genuine -- Jesus Saiz took a real leap forward. Whether it's just he's energized to be at Marvel or on Captain America or part of 'Standoff,' his work has never looked better."
"I'm blessed to be working with phenomenal artists, both Daniel and Jesus are doing a phenomenal job," said Spencer. "We've been working together for a while now and we're in a rhythm, and you can imagine what he's going to do with a page. You get to know each other better. We've been going through the first 'Steve Rogers' issue this week, and like Tom said, it's gorgeous work. My favorite thing is he can do a seven-panel page that feels like a four-panel page. The page never feels cramped, and I put a lot of words on them. That's not always the easiest thing."
D'Lando noted that "Steve Rogers" will tie-in with "Civil War II" beginning with July's issue #4. Spencer talked about Steve's role, now that he's not one of the two side-leaders. "Steve is very much aware of the impact him picking a side would have on the conflict," said Spencer. "His desire is to end the fighting. He doesn't want a second civil war because he knows the cost of it. He's trying to be Switzerland. It may not be that easy as it goes on. It's going to be challenging for him to remain on the sidelines. His position is that heroes should work together and if we're divided, things will fall apart. That's what he's trying to get through to Tony and Carol."
Brevoort added that while people kneejerked against Steve Rogers' return for fear that Sam Wilson's book would be canceled, the message he wants to convey is that's "not the case. We have two books with two characters and will proceed for the foreseeable future. They're both relevant to each other and the Marvel universe. The stuff going on in 'Sam Wilson' is as important as what's going on in 'Steve Rogers' and it will be very important before you know it."
Brevoort added that Spencer wanted to bring Steve back in time for the character's 75th anniversary, not for the "Civil War" movie. "For Steve's 75th, he should be vital again," said Brevoort, citing Spencer's logic.
"No one will ever believe that," said Spencer. "We've said it a million times, but every time I do a show, people are still convinced that it was handed down. It was my idea completely. I felt like the 75th was something we couldn't pass up and it was the moment to do it. There's a lot of great story to have with two Captain Americas, and Sam is a central part of the story. We have big plans for him."
Spencer spoke about the two Caps friendship, saying they've repaired it and put aside their differences. "Every since we showed the rift, we said both characters weren't comfortable with the distance and how it played out," said Spencer. "They're eager to work together again and will be a part of each other's book and story. Steve shows up in 'Sam' #9, and Sam will show up in Steve's in fairly short order. They're all in each other's orbits. The same is true of Bucky, they're all reconnected as a result of 'Standoff.'"
Sharon Carter will be a big part of the book, as she moves up S.H.I.E.L.D's ranks. Rick Jones will also be in the book following his actions as the Whisperer, Spencer said, and he's "serving out his sentence by helping Cap's team." Brevoort then urged Spencer to "hold it back," because there are some "faces popping up" that Spencer is very excited about. Those will be revealed in issue #1.
"I can see the impulse [to tell people the rest of the supporting cast]," said Brevoort, "but let's let people get there on their own." Spencer was then asked if Steve will get a new field partner, and he said that Cap has "big missions in front of him and he'll need all the help he can get."
With S.H.I.E.L.D. in disarray following Maria Hill's actions, Spencer says that the status of the organization will be a major player in "Steve's" book. "She's stacked the deck of the World Security Council and has people favorable to her, but the Pleasant Hill events were a big risk taking and people aren't happy with her," said Spencer. Brevoort added that aspects of the trial will appear in "New Avengers" and "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."
A new Quasar debuted in the "Standoff" finale, and Spencer teased that she will have a major role to play, "not just in the Captain America books but in the broader Marvel universe over the next year or two. She's a major character. Obviously it's exciting to have a new Quasar, but where she fits and what she'll deal with are going to be really big deal stories. You'll definitely see her in the 'Captain America' books, but there are big plans."
Steve's mindset will play out in the first few issues. "He's a bit out of sorts," said Spencer. "It's a major transformation and I wanted to make sure that didn't skip by. Going back to a young man has to be disorienting. Steve has always been older in his own skin and a man out of time, so in some ways the 90-year-old might have felt more comfortable. He might have acclimated to that better than people realized. And now he's brought back into the fray, to be a young man again is a chance to reconnect with that classic vibe of a man out of time and trying to adjust to changes around him." Spencer added that nothing happened to Sharon, so she's much older than him physically now. "He's got to deal with the fact that before this they were living a life of quasi-retirement of sorts, not as on the front lines. They were looking at being old together, and now they're in different places in life. That's obviously something we'll be dealing with in the book."
The new Thunderbolts team led by Bucky may show up in the series. "It's a very safe bet that they will be interacting quite a bit," said Spencer. "That book is going to be really fantastic. If people sleep on that one they'll really regret it. Some things happening there are very important."
When asked about the political nature of Steve's book as compared to "Captain America: Sam Wilson," Spencer said he doesn't view it as political so much as topical. "When we announced the 'Steve' book, I though there would be none of that, but that's turned out to not be true. There's a lot of interesting stuff with Red Skull and his new approach with HYDRA. How they operate will pose tough questions for Steve and S.H.I.E.L.D. Each series has different kinds of issues, and there is still a nice topical strain to the story. That's a fundamental part of Captain America and a huge part of the appeal and character's history. It's a tough thing to avoid. But they're tackling different issues. 'Sam' we tackle domestic issues and civil issues and cultural issues. Steve's book has more questions about security and freedom versus safety, and questions about the kinds of lines you'd be willing to cross when lives are at stake."
Spencer talked about whether or not "Civil War II" will split Sam and Steve's rekindled friendship. "No, because this may be giving away too much, but Sam's approach as Cap is not changing because he's back. Steve has made his piece with it and doesn't view his role as telling Sam how to do his job. He trusted him with the role and from there it's Sam's to do as he sees fit. If anything, Steve is a little worried he's taking Sam's spotlight. It was Sam's idea to share the role, and that was Sam's decision. Steve, when he was de-aged, felt completely the opposite. He thought he would go off and do something else. So no, the two are at peace with Sam's activist take and Sam will take a clearer choice in 'Civil War II.'"
There will also be a few jokes in the first issue of "Steve Rogers," Spencer said. "That's my voice. Steve's will hit a little less than Sam's." Brevoort joked that three issues in, it could be nothing but "pies in your face." "It's not that the situations or stakes aren't serious, but it's like, if you're only that all the time, that can get heavy and/or dull fast," said Brevoort. "There's a good strain of humor and that makes the character livelier and makes it pop, and contrasts with the weightier material."
Both books will have distinct vibes. "The books feel different," said Spencer. "Obviously they have the same writer so there are connection points. But looking at finished issues, there are different approaches in certain ways. We were talking about different kinds of broader issues being discussed, and they're different characters with different voices and view being Captain America differently. That was a big goal for us, making sure the books offered you different kinds of Captain America stories. I think if you read them both, those connection points really will sing."
As the Marvel Universe has a number of heroes sharing codenames, legacy characters operating alongside their forebears, Brevoort said that "whether individually in their own titles or in larger ones like 'Civil War II,' it's only natural and reasonable that you're going to see some degree of compare and contrast between one generation of a particular type of superhero and the next. And that's hopefully what makes the characters interesting. It's not something we sat down to do, it just kind of happened as we told a bunch of stories. We ended up in a world where we have two of a lot of heroes."
When asked if Ian Zola will appear, Spencer said "That would be cool, right?" Spencer said that he asked for a lot of supporting characters. "I wouldn't rule it out at all."
Spencer spoke about HYDRA and their role as the primary villain and why he chose them. "I'm a sucker for the big cabal-type organizations, so there's that," said Spencer. "And I'm kinda the reigning 'Secret Warriors' fanboy so that gives me a soft spot for HYDRA. In terms of why they're always the perfect opponent for Steve, they're entirely ideological. They're diametrically opposed to his worldview and belief system. That's fun. It's fun when your villain is a mirror opposite. I think there's something nice when you're talking about these organizations, we're taking a new look at how they recruit and what they do and how they look. Red Skull has thrown out the playbook but they're the same at it's core. It's still rooted in fascism and has roots that are dark and sinister and a worldview built on control. To put that against Steve, you get something out of that. I've always wanted to firm up the bond between Red Skull and HYDRA. I think there's a natural fit there that hasn't been there. Zemo built up HYDRA in an old school way, and combining it and merging it with his standard Masters of Evil approach, so it's great to have the Skull come in and stop with that and tear it down and see how Zemo reacts to that. A lot we're doing here is a war for the soul of HYDRA, and there are different ideas for where they'll go from here."
When it comes to other villains, Spencer asked Brevoort if he could reveal any. "You can't take it back once you've said it," said Brevoort. Spencer then declined to name anyone, prompting a laugh from Brevoort. Spencer teased that a lot of people will show up. "I've gotten what I wanted which is really nice," teased Spencer.
Lastly, Spencer talked about the consequence of having Steve's youth restored by a Cosmic Cube. "It's less about consequence and more about disorientation. Kobik fixed him, she restored him," said Spencer. "There hasn't been a fundamental change. But, again, the key stuff to deal with is the fact that he was an old man and at the end of his life and prepared to slow down, and was maybe happier doing that than people realized. There's that weighing on him, and then there's also the physical day to day change and the adjustment process. Anybody who's undergone physical therapy knows that when you've gotten used to not having something and having it again can be tricky. Steve's not as acrobatic and evasive as we've seen, and that has to do with the carelessness he has from the restoration. There's a lot to deal with there."
"FCBD Captain America" #1 arrives on May 7; "Captain America: Steve Rogers" #1 hits stores on May 25.