Talking New Avengers with Bendis!

He may be the boss of bosses in the supervillain underworld of the Marvel Universe, but even The Hood has a master: Dormammu, a powerful demonic entity from the realm known as the Dark Dimension. In the current arc of "New Avengers" Dormammu has sent the Hood on a mission to pave the way for his invasion of Earth by preventing the planet's new Sorcerer Supreme from being chosen. But the Hood was too late, and Brother Voodoo was named successor to Doctor Strange as the new Sorcerer Supreme in "New Avengers" #53.

With The Hood on his way, will Brother Voodoo survive his baptism of fire? What's next for the New Avengers and their ongoing war against the Hood and his associate Norman Osborn? For the answers to these questions - and more -- CBR News spoke with "New Avengers" writer Brian Michael Bendis.

It was the quasi-sentient artifact the Eye of Agamotto that chose the new Sorcerer Supreme at the end of "New Avengers" #53, and the choice of Brother Voodoo (a.k.a. Jericho Drumm) surprised a number of readers. "We discussed who would have the most interesting stories to tell if there was to be a new Sorcerer Supreme and we thought Brother Voodoo -- who will now be referred to as Doctor Voodoo since he's an actual doctor and it isn't the '70s [laughs] -- was a great choice," Bendis told CBR News.

"If you hear the pitch of who Doctor Voodoo is, you go, 'Hey that's pretty interesting,'" Bendis said. Doctor Voodoo had to learn magic to stop a powerful sorcerer and avenge his brother's murder. "His dead brother's soul is inside him so he's got this constant voice telling him what to do. He was a reluctant hero who had things thrust upon him and those characters are always the best.

"We also thought him not knowing he was going to be chosen as the next Sorcerer Supreme opened up different layers of magic as well," Bendis continued. "Sometimes lazy writers would write Doctor Strange as a wash away, but there was a lot of logic to his powers. With Doctor Voodoo, if you do your research on Voodoo and use it as the template to build your fantasy, there's a lot of cool stuff you can do there. It's a new bag of tricks."

Once Jericho Drumm was chosen as the next Sorcerer Supreme, Bendis undertook an extensive amount of research on the subject of real-life Voodoo. "I felt like Voodoo was something I knew nothing about and writers are supposed to do research, so I felt I needed to learn a lot. I spent most of the winter reading books on Voodoo, what it means and its history. I was in New York and I had all these books on me and [Marvel Editorin-Chief] Joe Quesada asked, 'What are those for?' I said they were for Brother Voodoo and mentioned that part of the problem with the character was that no one had really done a god damn bit of research on Voodoo. I didn't really use any of my research but I felt better writing him. I felt like I understood where he came from and what was going on."

In writing scenes with the newly appointed Doctor Voodoo, Bendis found the dynamic between the character and the spirit of his deceased brother to be highly enjoyable. "I imagined if my brother, who I adore, lived inside me, I would punch myself in the face about 85 times a day. It's like there's someone just over your shoulder constantly bothering you and they won't go away. That's a very unique dynamic in the Marvel Universe and I thought it was a lot of fun to write."

Additionally, Doctor Voodoo is simply a curiosity in the Marvel Universe. "Doctor Voodoo has also been by himself a lot. He's popped in and out of some adventures, but his relationships to the rest of the Marvel Universe are unique; it's like no one knows what to make of him," Bendis explained. "You've got all that, which is very interesting, but now there's the question of what does it mean now that he's Sorcerer Supreme? What did the Eye of Agamotto bring him? And how does that mix with the abilities he already has? So the amount of stories that can be told with the character is overwhelming. There's hundreds of brand new stories. This also opens up a lot of brand new stories for Doctor Strange. He's no longer Sorcerer Supreme, but he's not out of the picture. He's in more of a mentoring position now."

But what of Doctor Strange? Readers of "New Avengers" are getting a glimpse of some of the story potential for the former Sorcerer Supreme. In issue #53, he guided his former teammates to the future Doctor Voodoo's home in New Orleans and must have been very relieved to see the Eye of Agamotto had successfully chosen a new Sorcerer Supreme. "I think this arc has been redemptive for him in the sense that he righted a wrong," Bendis said. "He was successful in his quest to see that the right Sorcerer Supreme got what was coming to him; that the Hood and his master failed. So Doctor Strange did right this time and did good like he's done in the past -- not in the past when I wrote him, but in the past. So I think the dynamic between Doctor Voodoo and Doctor Strange will be interesting."

Bendis also used "New Avengers" #53 to highlight a new dynamic between Spider-Man and the new Captain America, Bucky Barnes. The two had a confrontation with Madame Masque, the Hood's girlfriend, that prompted Spidey and Cap to share their different viewpoints concerning guns. "Bucky carries a gun and those who are immersed in or aware of gun culture, like we all are, know that people with guns think differently about them then people who don't have them," Bendis explained. "I'm not one who has a gun but I know people who do have them and they have a different thought process about them. So in the scene there's a big pile of guns and Bucky's first thought would be, 'Everybody take a gun. We're in a fight. But to Spider-Man, once you pick up a gun it seems like you're escalating a fight. Bucky sees all fights as being at that level. It's a dynamic that I love. It adds an extra little spice to the stew that is the Avengers."

On sale July 1, "New Avengers" #54 brings to a close the Avengers' fight with the Hood and Dormammu over who's to be the next Sorcerer Supreme. "Doctor Voodoo will be tested and you'll see a dramatic shift in the dynamic between the Hood and Dormammu," Bendis teased. "The Hood and what he means to the Marvel Universe will be altered dramatically."

Issue #54 will also mark Doctor Voodoo's exit from the pages of "New Avengers," at least for the time being. "To my excitement, the character got his own series," Bendis confirmed. "He's going to come back into my book in a little bit, but not right now. I have some unfinished business with other characters that I want to attend to and I think Doctor Voodoo needs the full attention on him right now. If the character hadn't been picked up I would have kept him in the book just to keep the ball rolling. Once the ball was rolling though it became, 'Yay! I get to read a Doctor Voodoo book!'"

The story arc that kicks off in "New Avengers" #55 features the Hood and his criminal army. "The Avengers are now knee deep into Dark Reign. They're at the epicenter of what's going with Norman Osborn and his criminal Cabal," Bendis said. "The Cabal working together strengthens the Hood's power play but there will be rifts in the Hood's gang itself and they're relationships with the heroes."

In "New Avengers" #55, the Hood's gang lays a trap for the Avengers, and it's a successful one. "In 'New Avengers #50, Carol Danvers stole a piece of Stark Tech that was part of a power drainer. That got blown up but the Hood's gang which includes Dr. Jonas Harrow and a few other respected scientists reverse engineered it and put together one for themselves," Bendis explained. "They use it as sort of an anti-power bomb and it saps the powers of anyone in the vicinity."

Detonating an anti-power bomb in the middle of New York City has major repercussions for several Marvel characters. "There are some Marvel characters who might die if they don't have their powers. So quite a lot of drama is coming," Bendis said.

"New Avengers" #55 is also a particularly big story because it marks the debut of the series' new regular penciller, Stuart Immonen, who previously collaborated with Bendis on "Ultimate Spider-Man." "He's already handed in a ton of pages and they're gorgeous. They're everything I wanted them to be," Bendis said. "His style will be similar to what you saw on 'Ultimate Spider-Man' but there's a different line weight involved. The difference is subtle but to me it's very spectacular and the character acting is the same, which I think is fantastic."

Issue #55 also marks the return to the book of colorist Dave McCaig, who previously worked on "New Avengers" with Bendis and former series artist Lenil Yu. "He also colored Stuart's work on 'Next Wave,'" Bendis said. "And because they were desperate to work together again, former colorist Justin Ponsor, who I adore immensely, will be doing other projects with me around the Marvel Universe. Stuart and Dave wanted to get back together and try some bold stuff. So bold stuff is coming."

While big and bold stuff has been happening to the heroes of "New Avengers," several shocking and significant developments have occurred in other books like "Ms. Marvel" and the recent "New Avengers: The Reunion" miniseries, which starred Ronin and Mockingbird. Expect those stories to be picked up in "New Avengers." "I don't want to ruin anything that's happening in other books but you'll absolutely feel the effects of the Ronin-Mockingbird thing for sure," Bendis confirmed. "['Reunion' writer] Jim McCann and I are very much on the same page."

In the months ahead, readers can also expect to see some big developments in the adversarial dynamic between Ronin and Norman Osborn. "There will be a lot more of the back-and-forth between Clint and Norman in the media. In the most recent issue of 'Dark Avengers,' Norman responded to Clint and Clint will respond in kind to Norman. There will be a back-and-forth that builds and builds till somebody gets hurt," Bendis said. "They're in a PR war, which I think is a little different than people thought it might be, because Clint is like, 'That's the Green Goblin! Why aren't you people listening to me!' Sometimes the person yelling about the conspiracy starts to look very crazy because they're frustrated that nobody will listen, like Richard Dreyfuss in 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind.'"

Brian Michael Bendis recently returned from the latest Marvel writers' retreat, where longterm plans were concocted that will affect the entire Marvel Universe. "I can't say why yet, but something is going to happen and Joe Quesada will be talking about it in the next few months, maybe even at the San Diego Comic-Con," Bendis said. "We all had an assignment and we had to come to the retreat with our homework done. So I was kind of nervous and came with an agenda for the Avengers Universe. It was looked at favorably so I left the retreat feeling relieved and very happy.

"Things really start to get dicey and dangerous. There will be victims. There will be people who succeed tremendously and fail horribly during this as things get crazier and crazier."

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