Writer David Walker gets into the head of the original Hero for Hire!

Can’t get enough Luke Cage? The man with unbreakable skin heads down south to the bayou in his own self-titled solo series starting May 17.

Hot off his run on POWER MAN AND IRON FIST, writer David F. Walker teams with artist Nelson Blake II to take a deeper look into the toughened Hero for Hire as he revisits his past in the form of the scientist who gave him his powers.

But not everything remains as Luke remembers it, according to Walker, who spoke with us about his old school influences for this comic, using super hero action to its fullest potential, and the significance of tax season on Luke’s story.

Marvel.com: When thinking about writing your take of Luke Cage did you go back to the drawing board so-to-speak? What parts of his origin did you consider most important when crafting the story?

David F. Walker: That’s a good question. I mean, the most well-known version of his origin is, I think, the most important. The fact that there’s a guy who’s in prison for a crime he didn’t commit and then he got experimented on while he was in prison and it’s that basic nuts and bolts of it. And obviously that story itself hasn’t been told nearly as many times as Peter Parker getting bit by the radioactive spider or Bruce Banner being exposed to gamma rays, but now, with the Netflix show, his origin has become more ingrained in the public consciousness, but there’s so many details that you can fill in because it hasn’t been told a thousand times, over and over again. And so yeah, it’s that very basic nuts and bolts that I’m playing with and that I draw from and then I just start building upon that.

Marvel.com: How did you want to tell his origin story in a way that caught up newcomers to the character while keeping it fresh for longtime fans?

David F. Walker: Stuff like this has become trickier now with films and TV because someone will watch all [13] episodes of the show on Netflix or they’ll watch a movie and suddenly they’re an expert in the character, even though that character may have been around for 40 or 50 years and then you have the hardcore fans and you have the new fans or the new readers who might not be familiar in either capacity so it’s about trying to find that balance and for me, that balance lies really in the core of his character and making his personality interesting enough that people will engage with him, you know? Like if there’s people who are upset that he’s not wearing the metal headband—and it’s a headband, it’s not a tiara—then [they] didn’t really like the character. It’s like when people argue over “Who’s the best James Bond?” Is it Sean Connery? Is it Daniel Craig? Is it…most people don’t say Roger Moore, but it’s like, well, James Bond is James Bond and it’s not so much the actor who’s playing him as it’s the stories in the movies themselves. And so, it’s always about playing with that character and making sure that there’s enough to that character, to his personality that, whether someone is a long term fan going back 40 years, whether it’s someone who discovered him during NEW AVENGERS very recently, whether it’s someone who only knows him from the show—you take all of those into consideration, you throw em’ into a big pot, you make a stew, but you add just the right spices so that the flavor works for as many people as possible. But for some people, they’ll go, “Oh, there’s too much pepper” or “There’s too much salt” or whatever it is and those are the people you just kinda go, “Huh, well we tried! Maybe next issue!”

Marvel.com: Luke was very much a product of his time when he first debuted back in the early ‘70s at the height of the Blaxploitation era. Will we be getting some of these groovy old school vibes in your series?

David F. Walker: Yeah there’s some—I tried to play with some of that with POWER MAN AND IRON FIST. [There have been] a couple of interviews over the years with different creators, including, I seem to recall reading something about Archie Goodwin and what his influences were with creating Luke Cage and to me, what’s interesting is that I’m a huge Blaxploitation fan. Honestly, you’re not gonna find anyone who’s a bigger Blaxploitation fan than me; I’ve written a book about it and I made a documentary about it and I’ve given college lectures on it. I know more about that than I know about comics, actually and so the interesting [thing] to me is that Luke Cage is actually more a product of the writing of Chester Himes whose work predates Blaxploitation by 10-20 years and I’ve read enough Chester Himes that when I’m going back and re-reading the early issues of [LUKE CAGE, HERO FOR HIRE] from the ‘70s, [I say], “Oh yeah, this is total Chester Himes more than anything out of Blaxploitation” because Chester Himes created this very stylized and surreal world that almost looked like the real world, but it wasn’t like the real world and so you go back to one of the driving ideologies behind Marvel is, “The world right outside your window,” but it really isn’t the world right outside your window, right? That’s what Chester Himes did in his writing and to me, it’s so clear and it’s so obvious and in Chester Himes books, “Blind Man with a Pistol” and “A Rage in Harlem” and “For Love of Imabelle” and books like that—and his “Harlem Detective” series—they’re this weird mix of hardboiled noir thrillers and just also a dash of the surreal and comedy. That’s really what I wanted to go for with LUKE CAGE and sure, there’s some Blaxploitation elements in it.

Marvel.com: You’ve gone on record as saying the Netflix series was one of your influences for this comic. What elements of this version of Luke’s story, in terms of the show, really caught your attention?

David F. Walker: Well, the thing I like about the Netflix show a lot was that it went a long way to humanize Luke and I give all credit to the writers and the producers of that show. The original LUKE CAGE comics read like they were written by a white man who had very little experience or relationships with black folks, it’s a fact. And the thing about the TV show, as I was watching it, there were scenes where I was like, “Yeah, yeah a black person wrote this scene” or “It was written by a white person who has spent every waking moment of their life with black people” [Laughs]. And so there was obviously a huge element of the fantastic and there’s a lot of “over-the-topness” to the show and there was aspects of the show that were very much entrenched in the super hero tropes, but there’s a humanity to Luke Cage on the TV show, but honestly he didn’t start getting [humanized] in comics until sometime around the time he showed up in ALIAS or NEW AVENGERS and that’s the biggest influence that the show’s had on me and what a lot of people don’t realize is that we were developing the POWER MAN AND IRON FIST comic series before the Netflix show debuted; the Netflix show debuted October 2016 and by that point I think we were like maybe six or seven issues into our run on the comic and there was no back and forth between us and the show so how I developed that character for POWER MAN AND IRON FIST, a lot of it was just obvious like “It’s obvious!” like [show runner] Cheo Hodari Coker and the rest of the writing staff [for the TV show] had read the same books I’d read and watched the same movies I’d watched and listened to the same music that I listen to and there was a very serendipitous amount of coincidences in how that version of the character turned out and how the comic book of that character turned out and so when I saw the show, more than anything, it validated a lot of the beliefs and a lot of what I was pushing for with the comic and with the character in that [I said], “Yeah, this is gonna work, we can show him this way and that he shouldn’t be a guy who’s just about getting into fist fights” because as much as I love those original books from the ‘70s, every issue it’s, Oh, here’s in a fist fight with a D-level villain that hardly anybody knows or a Z-level villain [Laughs] specific to his world and that’s [how] we [got] like Cockroach Hamilton and Piranha Jones and people like that.

Marvel.com: You also said you want to show a Luke who’s not punching the stuffing out of people all the time. Can you talk a little more about that?

David F. Walker: Yeah, I mean I’m just old, you know? [Laughs] I grew up watching action movies before Michael Bay movies were considered action movies. So to me, an action movie is like something from the ‘70s like “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three,” the original version from 1974, or even “The French Connection” or “Bullit,” going back to the ‘60s. These are movies that I grew up on, that I love and if you were to sit down and clock out the number of minutes that are actual car chases and fights, they’re fairly brief. If you had a two-hour movie, there might’ve been 15 minutes of hardcore action whereas now, you watch a movie like “John Wick,” which I love, don’t get me wrong, but it’s mostly action and I’m more of a story guy so to me, when I read a comic, I don’t need to see, whether it’s Spider-Man or Daredevil or Hulk, I don’t need any of these characters fighting for six and seven pages out of an issue that’s only 20 pages of content. With the exception of, I’m thinking of one or two action sequences that really stand out in my mind—I’m in my late forties, so I’ve been reading comics for over 40 years and the one action sequence that stands out in my mind more than any other is [DAREDEVIL #181] where Bullseye kills Elektra. That’s the most powerful action sequence and that stands out in my mind, but when I think of all the other moments that stand out in my mind in the history of comics with all the comics that I’ve read, absolutely none of them are action moments, they’re all character-defining moments. There’s the issue of FANTASTIC FOUR where Sue Storm is pregnant and she loses the baby. There’s the trial of Galactus. A lot of that stuff was really compelling and I think for a lot of us, we think of super heroes when we think of men or women in these weird suits beating the crap out of each other and that’s cool for a little bit, but even with the movies, some of the best moments in the movies aren’t the action. And so to me, it’s like I know my dream comic would actually be boring because I’ve written my dream comic and reading over it I was like, “Well this is boring” and that was just some character sitting around talking, but it is tough, finding that balance, that right ratio of action to moving the story forward and a fight doesn’t necessarily move the story forward. Mayhem and destruction does not move the story forward.

Marvel.com: The first issue of this ongoing series revolves around the death of the scientist who helped give Luke his unbreakable skin, Doctor Noah Burstein. How does Luke feel about revisiting his past? 

David F. Walker: Obviously it’s a difficult time for him because he’s resisting his past while mourning this person who was really pivotal to him, but the story’s also about him realizing that his past isn’t exactly what he thought it was and that he isn’t exactly who he thought he was. He isn’t who he thinks he is and Burstein isn’t who [Luke] thought he was. It’s playing with the notions of what happens when, as an adult, you start to see your parents in a very different way, you start to look at them through the eyes of an adult, as opposed to the eyes of a child, which is how you saw them growing up and so it’s playing with that in a much more exaggerated, super heroic sort of way, but it’s like that moment you first get a bill from the IRS and you’re like, “Oh, this is what my mom was always freaking out about every March and April. Now I get it! Now that I’m paying the taxes I understand.” It’s all that sort of stuff; it’s what it’s like the first time that you go grocery shopping on your own with your own money or the first time you get a pay check and you look and you see how much the taxes have been taken out—I’m going back to taxes because it’s tax time right now and that’s part of what this is about for me. It’s really [Luke] looking at his own past through the eyes of an adult as an adult. What so many of us do is look at our past and we get caught up in the nostalgia. There’s no nostalgia. This is Luke having his nostalgia ripped away from him.

Marvel.com: And how does changing the setting from New York to New Orleans change that dynamic of who he is and what he does fighting or otherwise?

David F. Walker: It just puts him in a really uncomfortable, foreign environment where he doesn’t know anybody and he doesn’t necessarily know who to turn to. If I had set the story in New York, the moment something bad goes down, he can get on the phone and he can call his wife [Jessica Jones] or he can call Iron Fist or he can call Spider-Man or Daredevil or, you know, he was a member of the Avengers [Laughs], but you put him in a place that’s completely foreign to him and it throws his game off. One of my favorite movies of all time is a movie called “The Third Man,” directed by Carol Reed based on a book by Graham Greene and it’s all about a guy who’s completely out of his element and then on top of that, there’s something sinister going on and so, he shows up in Vienna for one reason and everything goes wrong and there’s nowhere to turn and even where he turns he doesn’t know, can I trust this person? Can I trust this person? I would have to say that my two single biggest influences in this first story arc of LUKE CAGE is “The Third Man” followed closely by Robert Altman’s “The Long Goodbye,” which is an adaptation of a Raymond Chandler novel so it’s really “The Third Man” and “The Long Goodbye,” those two movies, I watch them regularly anyway, and I was like, “Ok, I love the themes that they’re playing with,” the past is not exactly [as] we remember and people aren’t exactly who we think they are and if the past isn’t exactly how we remember it, then the people that we care about aren’t exactly who we think they are, then what does that say about who we are?

Marvel.com: How will this solo Luke differ from the one you portrayed in your POWER MAN AND IRON FIST run?

David F. Walker: After 17 issues of stories [with] him teamed with Iron Fist, which [had] a lot of serious stuff, but was also very light-hearted I was like, “Well, you did that. Now let’s try something different” and [Marvel] Editorial was in agreement with me and we talked about it and it was like, I don’t wanna be known as the guy who only wrote Luke Cage stories that were a little more comedic and light-hearted; I wanted to explore something different and I knew going in that what I wanted to explore with this character wasn’t gonna lend itself to a lot of the humor that we had in POWER MAN AND IRON FIST.

Marvel.com: I can’t wait to read the first issue next month!

David F. Walker: Yeah. Less than a month…I just saw a bunch of the art for issue #2 and yeah, it’s comin’ together. I’m having a fun time writing it and I hope people enjoy it. You give it your all and to me, the greatest part of writing comics is the moment you see what you’ve written translated into art. There’s nothing better than that and if that’s all I had to do, I would actually be the happiest guy in the world [Laughs].

David Walker and Nelson Blake II revisit the past and forge the future in LUKE CAGE #1 on May 17!

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Doctor Strange and company chase the cosmic big bad back to his home!

The Author threatens all existence. In DOCTOR STRANGE AND THE SORCERERS SUPREME #9 by Robbie Thompson and Javier Rodriguez, the team of magic casters decides such a risk cannot be ignored and so they take the fight to it where it lives. Can they possibly hope to defeat an opponent on its home turf when they barely annoyed it here on Earth?

We breathlessly reached out to writer Thompson for some reassurance. He had little.

Marvel.com: In order to defeat The Author, the Sorcerers have to give chase into its land. How did you conceptualize this sure to be unusual space? How did Javier Rodriguez bring your ideas about that realm to life?

Robbie Thompson: As always, I turned to my magical partner in crime, artist Javier Rodriguez. Working with Javier is incredibly inspiring as a writer. He has such a strong visual sense of storytelling and an incredible grasp of design and layout. When he first designed The Author, all I told him was the character’s true origins—spoiler alert!—that he’s actually an alien. Javier took it from there.

And that’s how editors Darren Shan and Nick Lowe and I approached the Author’s home world, which we’ll see a hint of in issue #8, but then in great detail in issue #9—we turned to Javier and set him loose. And boy, did he deliver! So, all credit belongs to Javier; he took a few very simple ideas and made them elegant and magical.

Marvel.com: What state are the Sorcerers in? Do they trust one another? If not, how do they view one another?

Robbie Thompson: The Sorcerers are pretty shook up by the betrayal of one of their own, Sir Isaac Newton. But in a sense, that betrayal has now forced them all to be on the same page. Newton was a problem, but he’s inadvertently conjured a much bigger problem for them all by summoning The Author to Earth. So, our hope is that if they survive this encounter, they’ll come out the other side a much stronger team.

Marvel.com: Given the Author’s ancient existence, is it really consequence free to eliminate him? What risks might the team be running?

Robbie Thompson: They’ll be risking their lives! The Author is an extremely powerful foe for them, and as we see in issues #8 and #9, the magic of the Sorcerers does little to no damage to this adversary. They’re going to have to find a much different rabbit to pull out of the hat in order to best this foe!

Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #9 cover by Javier Rodriguez

We wanted to continue to put our heroes in deeper and deeper trouble, while keeping the escalation connected to the source of this story: Merlin. So, we’ve been building toward this reveal since the first issue—with Newton waiting in the wings to turn on his fellow Sorcerers, his blind ambition exposing our heroes to a being more powerful than any they’ve faced so far.

Marvel.com: How does The Author view them? Do they elicit any kind of emotion at all?

Robbie Thompson: The Sorcerers are nothing but annoying gnats to The Author! He finds them all disappointing and weak! But arrogance is a weakness, too, and hopefully the Sorcerers will find a way to exploit that weakness in issue #9.

Marvel.com: As you look to the end of this arc, any last teases to offer to get the fans clamoring for it?

Robbie Thompson: Javier, inker Alvaro Lopez, colorist Jordie Bellaire, and letterer Joe Caramagna really outdid themselves with these last couple issues, culminating in a visually stunning ninth issue. They all really raised their game and delivered one of the best issues of the series. Javier’s design and layouts are mind-blowing and Alvaro’s inks are so textured and rich. Joe always finds a way to bring the characters’ voices to life in new and brilliant ways. And what can you say about Jordie Bellaire? She’s an absolutely incredible storyteller and her colors are astonishing. The whole team is amazing.

And that’s not all! In issue #10, young Nate Stockman and Tamra Bonvillain are back in [a story] that’s set in the future and features some of my all-time favorite mutants. Nate clearly had a blast working on that [one], it’s some of his best work to date, and I can’t wait for folks to see it!

Take a trip with Robbie Thompson, Javier Rodriguez, and company in DOCTOR STRANGE AND THE SORCERERS SUPREME #9 on June 28!

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The creators of a new Star Wars one-shot take us on a tour with the mechanical masterworks!

R2-D2! BB-8! And Darth Maul’s probe droids!? On June 28, make the jump to lightspeed alongside some of the universe’s greatest mechanized companions with STAR WARS: DROIDS UNPLUGGED!

Written and illustrated by Chris Eliopoulos, this one-shot details three brand-new Star Wars stories—follow R2 on a crucial mission for Luke, witness BB-8 play matchmaker for a couple of Resistance soldiers, and see what Darth Maul’s probe droids did when they weren’t busy scouting for Qui-Gon Jinn!

To prepare for the book, we spoke with Eliopoulos, colorist Jordie Bellaire, and assistant editor Heather Antos about their favorite droids—and droid moments—in Star Wars history.

Marvel.com: There are so many incredibly-defined droids that act as main characters in the Star Wars universe—so, what’s your favorite droid that plays a central role in the Star Wars story? BB-8? Triple-Zero? Chopper?

Chris Eliopoulos: From the first time I saw “Star Wars” as a nine-year-old boy in the theater, I loved—loved—R2-D2. I currently have about 300 astromech droids in my studio. Really small ones to a giant R2 cooler. He’s the man—or droid. R2-D2 seemed to always know what was going on as well as being brave and snarky. It was something new for me. A machine that was cool.

Jordie Bellaire: I think my answer was always R2, he’s sassy and a bit bossy, but I think K-2SO has taken the love cake. He’s not only sassy and bossy, he’s pretty cynical—my kind of droid!

Heather Antos: Artoo, hands down, is the best Star Wars droid. Whereas all the other characters always seem to be getting into trouble…Artoo always seems to be the one to get his best pals out of trouble.

Marvel.com: Likewise, there are countless minor droids that the we might only see on the fringes of a Star Wars story. What’s your favorite background droid? Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru’s Gonk? IG-88? FLO the waitress?

Chris Eliopoulos: I love Treadwell, 2-1B and even the EV-9D9 droid that harmed my favorite, which is the Gonk droid. I have all these astromech droids in my office, but there is room for one Gonk droid.

A small nod has to go to RX-24 or Rex from the Star Tours ride. He was a lovable goofball.

Jordie Bellaire: I’ve always loved the design of an Imperial probe droid. Not to say I’m a baddie but you know, the baddies have some beautiful equipment to search out that rebel scum. Probably explains my K-2SO love as well!

Heather Antos: Gonk! I love Gonk so much—and I honestly can’t explain it. I think there’s an epic story with Gonk just waiting to be explored. I bet there’s so much of him that we just don’t know about yet.

Star Wars: Droids Unplugged cover by Chris Eliopoulos

Marvel.com: Time for some hard-hitters…What’s your favorite droid moment in a Star Wars comic book?

Chris Eliopoulos: I kinda have a perverse love of seeing Chewbacca ripping Triple Zero’s arm off and smacking him with it in STAR WARS #13. It follows the line that Wookiees tend to rip arms out of their sockets when they get angry line.

Jordie Bellaire: The psych out hologram of R2-D2 in PRINCESS LEIA #1!

Heather Antos: Any interaction between Triple-Zero and BT-1!

Marvel.com: And the toughest of all—what’s your favorite droid moment in a Star Wars movie?

Chris Eliopoulos: The scene in [“Empire Strikes Back”] where they are racing to get to Boba Fett to save Han and as they watch Slave-1 takes off, a blaster fight out breaks out on the platform and R2 seems to do donuts. In my young head, I thought he was being brave and blocking fire to protect his friends. A heroic moment.

Jordie Bellaire: The Ewok campfire scene, where 3PO is playing storyteller.

Heather Antos: One of Artoo’s most heroic acts by far was rolling into the arena on Geonosis to reassemble his best buddy, C-3PO. Artoo will stop at nothing to help his friends!

STAR WARS: DROIDS UNPLUGGED, written and illustrated by Chris Eliopoulos, goes on sale on June 28!

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Kieron Gillen continues the epic crossover featuring Doctor Aphra!

This month, writers Jason Aaron and Kieron Gillen find themselves about halfway through their second intergalactic narrative crossing over STAR WARS and DOCTOR APHRA, and fans find themselves in the midst of a dinner party gone horribly wrong with the Queen of the Screaming Citadel deprived of her main course: Luke Skywalker! Not surprisingly, we see Doctor Aphra in the middle of it all as she and Luke attempt to escape the wrath of the planet’s monarch all the while seeking to unlock the mysteries of the Jedi crystal.

As we round the bend towards the mid-point of this event, we sat down with co-writer Kieron Gillen, to discuss what we’ve seen so far and what we can expect around the next corner.

Marvel.com: When we first spoke about “The Screaming Citadel,” we discussed the similarities to other pulpy horror adventures like “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” Given where things left off with the second issue of the story, I’d say that comparison was a pretty good one given the scene at the breakfast table…

Kieron Gillen: Of course, the other comparison would be that Sana and Aphra clearly had some “Bad Dates.”

Marvel.com: Do you have any other similar surprises in store for readers?

Kieron Gillen: Nope. Nothing happens in the remaining three issues. I’m not sure what we were thinking. We’ve decided to move into a weirder slice of life direction, where Han and Leia sit down with 000 and BeeTee and experiment with crochet.

Marvel.com: We also discovered that Aphra intended to feed Luke to the Queen. How do you bounce back from that sort of discovery if you’re Luke?

Kieron Gillen: Luke and Aphra’s relationship certainly ricochets around across the story. You have to suspect that the latest experience does put a general downer on it. Luke has tended to idealize Aphra. It’s hard to hang onto that when someone’s tried to feed you to an alien queen.

This is all written from experience. I had a friend who tried to feed me to an alien queen. Our relationship was never the same, but we’re at least polite in public now.

Marvel.com: On the other hand, how do you suppose Aphra convinces the Queen to unlock the secrets of crystal now that she’s blown her dining room?

Kieron Gillen: With great difficulty.

That said, it’s a big house. The Queen’s probably got a lot of dining rooms. And we’ve seen in the first issue she prefers to eat while standing on a balcony. Kind of Al Fresco.

Doctor Aphra #8 cover by Marco Checchetto

Marvel.com: Of course, we also have the secondary story you’re developing in the background with Han, Leia, and Sana who are trying to catch up to Luke and Aphra. Why is it that Sana is so reluctant to fill Han in on her past with Aphra?

Kieron Gillen: Because it’s deeply embarrassing, for one. Maybe that’s the main one; Sana and Han have a complicated relationship, and letting Han know the details would make her never live it down.

Of course, Sana is the person who told Aphra where they were. If she hadn’t done that, Aphra would have never been able to convince Luke to go with her. The more that Han knows, the more likely they’ll piece it together.

Marvel.com: Once the two groups reunite, we’re going to see Sana and Aphra come back together again. While Sana seems to be finding a place for herself in the Rebellion, Aphra doesn’t appear to be slowing down any. Do we get any idea of what happens next for them as the series continues?

Kieron Gillen: Oh, it’s certainly a heart-warming moment when they meet up. Possibly literally, in terms of having a blaster bolt setting Aphra’s heart on fire.

Marvel.com: Now, let’s pretend there’s a “happy ending” for this Star Wars horror story and Luke gets to learn a little more about being a Jedi after the secrets of the crystal are unlocked. But up to this point, Aphra hasn’t tipped her hand yet. What does she get out of all of this?

Kieron Gillen: The most messed up thing in all of this is Aphra’s been relatively clean on her aims. She wants to reactivate the Rur crystal. Where she hasn’t been honest is her main motivation, which is to sell it for enormous amounts of cash.

Marvel.com: Last question: What’s the deal with the Wookie allergies on this planet?

Kieron Gillen: It’s less of an allergy, and more of an intolerance. More next issue, shall we say?

“The Screaming Citadel” winds its way into DOCTOR APHRA #7 on May 31, then on to STAR WARS #32 on June 14, and finally back to DOCTOR APHRA #8 on June 28!

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Dive deep into the history of T’Challa with artist Wilfredo Torres!

Wakanda just can’t catch a break!

In BLACK PANTHER #15—out June 28—the African nation comes to understand that its ancient gods have left them to their own devices. While King T’Challa tries to figure out what’s going on, writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and artist Wilfredo Torres continue to throw challenges his way.

Torres took over for fellow artists Brian Stelfreeze and Chris Sprouse–who will return–with issue #13 and kicked off the new storyline “Avengers of the New World.” The arc dives into all kinds of beginning-of-time mythology that the artist gets to play with and develop. We talked with him about dreaming up some of these characters, putting his own spin on existing ones, and diving into the world of Wakanda.

Marvel.com: How was it coming up with the designs for the Simbi, Anansi and Teku-Masa? Did you look to ancient images for inspiration in developing them?

Wilfredo Torres: I tried to look at species native to Africa but ultimately I tried to not go too far down the rabbit hole and instead went with more of a traditional comics, movie monster feel.

Marvel.com: Wakanda has such a unique feel and history to it. How has it been getting familiar with that world?

Wilfredo Torres: It’s a fantastic setting with all the elements you could ask for; a beautiful natural environment, a technological marvel married to tradition. It’s really a wonderful backdrop for any storyteller.

Marvel.com: Black Panther himself has such a sleek, seemingly simple design. Is it difficult putting your own spin on that costume?

Wilfredo Torres: It’s deceptively simple really but Brian Stelfreeze had such a great approach to it so I just tried to follow in that same direction.

Marvel.com: How do you feel your collaborative relationship with Ta-Nehisi has evolved since you started working together?

Wilfredo Torres: Ta-Nehisi’s scripts play out like massive cinematic scenes and they also have these wonderful personal moments which I love working on. It’s been great to collaborate with him on this as well as [colorist] Laura Martin and the entire team.

BLACK PANTHER #15 by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Wilfredo Torres arrives on June 28.

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Discussing the end of the master assassin’s Las Vegas adventure with writer Matt Owens!

Unlike most visitors to Las Vegas, Elektra will be getting gone when the getting is good.

Before the lethal lady grabs the next flight out of the glittering glitzy desert, however, we cajoled ELEKTRA writer Matt Owens to talk about how her time on the Strip changed her and what he learned about Ms. Natchios over the course of this series.

Marvel.com: Obviously, when you start the pitch for a character you have a distinct idea of him or her. However, over time, often, that perspective may evolve and change. In writing ELEKTRA, how did the titular character evolve for you? Where did she start and where did she end up in terms of how you thought of her?

Matt Owens: I learned an important lesson as I watched Elektra do the same throughout this story. I think Elektra is very similar at the beginning and the end of this story. The lesson learned is that that is ok. We are who we are. Failures, faults, fears. Elektra was running from a lot but ultimately she was running from herself. At the end of this series, she is not running anymore.

Marvel.com: Continuing that thread of how Elektra changed within the book, how do you see her trip to Sin City as having made her over? What ramifications can you imagine these changes having down the road?

Matt Owens: I think the biggest ramifications are going to be for those who have screwed her over most recently. After her most recent run-in with Daredevil, she tried to escape all the pain and bull. Now she realizes that there is nowhere she can go where someone will not be messing with her. So it’s going to give her a great drive heading back to New York. She has certain people in her [crosshairs] and she is a newly motivated Elektra.

Marvel.com: One aspect that you really dug into in the book is how Elektra’s past echoes into her future. Now this can be said for all of us, but why is it especially true for her? Do you view those echoes as helping her or imprisoning her in her current life?

Matt Owens: They do both.

One of the themes of this book is how your past informs your future. Are either of those two things escapable? Are they intricately intertwined? We see how Elektra deals with failing to save people. It’s a hang-up of hers from her early days of trying to be a hero. And it has a big impact on her in the present day story.

Similarly, her future seems to be rooted in her past as well. Both in the place and people it will involve. It’s inescapable. Which can be a frustrating realization to come.

Marvel.com: Artistically, how did your collaboration with Juan Cabal progress? How did you two aid/push each other creatively?

Matt Owens: Working with Juan was one of the most fun parts of this book. I make a lot of references to things in my scripts. It’s how I think and talk. Juan and I very quickly learned that we love the same sorts of things.

Elektra #5 cover by Elizabeth Torque

I would make a reference to the One Piece manga and he would visually know what I was getting at. I would make a Final Fantasy reference and he would come back with something even bigger and better than I imagined. You can definitely see the visual influences on our version of Murder World. It ends up being our sort of homage to Gold Saucer. It evolved over the course of the run as we got to know each other better.

We made each other laugh a lot and challenged each other and I think the book turned out great because of that.

Marvel.com: Making Arcade the central villain of the story certainly pitted Elektra against a nontraditional opponent. Looking back over the arc, what do you think that helped you reveal about your protagonist as a character? Similarly, what did putting Arcade against someone he doesn’t generally cross swords with help you to explore or highlight about him?

Matt Owens: Going to Vegas was a selfish act on Elektra’s part. Finally fed up with everything she has had to deal with in her life/lives, she chose to flee. But a hero does not get to give up his/her duty so easily. It was a difficult lesson to learn, but that was [what] Arcade forced her to see. That she is innately good. She will help people. She’s had failures in the past, but that does not make her any less of a hero. On the physical side, it also solidified why Elektra is one of the deadliest members of the Marvel Universe. She got to show off a lot of skills in this story. It was fun having her in an unfamiliar environment and seeing how she would get herself out of certain situations.

Now for Arcade, going up against Elektra was the ultimate instance of flying too close to the sun. He had a lot to prove with this new Murder World. He was still dangerous, he was still entertaining, and he can still kill the best. He’s desperate to try and reclaim his perceived seat at the high table of super villains. But as he explains to Elektra, even these current machinations are at the behest of someone else. He thought he could taste former glory, but it eluded him once again.

Marvel.com: Looking specifically at issue #5, why is it a must-have for any fans of Elektra the character or your ELEKTRA series?

Matt Owens: I think it helps solidify, for the universe and for Elektra herself, her importance and ties to New York. Specifically to characters like Daredevil and Wilson Fisk. The impetus for her flight to Vegas was an attempt to get away from things in her past. Matt, New York, heroism. Only to realize at the end that no matter what she does, she is inexplicably tied to those people [and] that place. It is her destiny. Whether she likes it or not.

That’s a hard realization to come to. Elektra has been a tool used by so many people for a long time. Oftentimes feeling like her choices are not her own. This battle with Arcade and the implications behind it have proven that to be true to an extent. And that is not going to sit well with Elektra. Now she can return to her rightful corner of the universe and face the very things she was trying to push away head on.

Go all in on ELEKTRA #5 by Matt Owens and Juan Cabal, available June 28!

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Kingpin takes advantage of social tensions to steal a major artifact!

Celebrate the Wall Crawler’s return to the big screen in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” by heading back to school with these adventures available on Marvel Unlimited!

Trouble rumbled through the pages of 1969’s AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #68 by Stan Lee and John Romita. The issue kicked off with Kingpin learning of an ancient clay tablet on display at Empire State University that he wanted, even if it meant throwing down with Spider-Man once again. Meanwhile, Spidey swung around after his battle with Mysterio, grumbling about not snapping any pictures of the fight. He got home only to find that his roommate, Harry Osborn, had locked the window!

The next day Peter Parker went to school on the E.S.U. campus and met Robbie Robertson’s son Randy. Moments after, a fellow student named Josh asked the young scholar about his thoughts on an on-campus issue; apparently the powers that be at the school intended to close down the exhibition hall and turn the building into rooms for visiting alumni. Josh represented a group that wanted the administration to turn that space into low-rent housing for students with financial difficulties.

Things looked up for our hero after he ran into Gwen Stacy and had a nice visit with Aunt May, but we readers learned that the latter had received some bad news from the doctor that she didn’t relay to her nephew. Back on campus the next morning, a protest had begun in an effort to convince the school to turn the hall into cost effective student housing. Josh wanted to take the building by force if necessary which did not sit well with Mr. Parker who pushed away from the group and went inside the hall to look at the tablet.

With enough of a crowd listening to him, Josh called for everyone to rush the hall. Kingpin saw this on TV and realized it would be the perfect distraction to steal the artifact. For his part, Peter also took advantage by snapping pictures of the demonstration. At dark, the villainous crime lord and his crew showed up and used an explosion to draw focus away from them as they ran into the not-so-secure location. Inside, Wilson Fisk actually came face to face with Peter Parker for a moment. As the Kingpin of Crime made his way to his goal, our hero ducked into a corner and changed into the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man.

Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #68

Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #68

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In the chamber holding the artifact, Spider-Man and Kingpin finally battled, with the well-dressed crime boss reminding the hero that his white jacket hid muscles galore. During the fray, Randy ran in and got smashed into a wall by the villain. Spidey grabbed him and escaped as part of the hall came crashing down and Fisk made off with the tablet. In the next issue, the police questioned Randy and Josh, assuming they had helped Kingpin with his plot. Meanwhile, out in the world, the villain allowed Spider-Man to find them, but the Wall-Crawler didn’t fall for the trap. The pair battled fiercely until Fisk’s cane gun backfired on him.

When the cops showed up, Kingpin lied and said that he and Spider-Man were actually allies. So, when the police saw Spidey him later, they opened fire. Peter wound up with the tablet in his possession until AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #71 when he gave it to Captain Stacy right after proving the kids didn’t have anything to do with Kingpin’s crime.

A Tangled Web

Thanks to Peter’s pictures of Kingpin’s attack, Randy Robertson avoided an unjust prison stay. Afterwards the two became friends, but Randy eventually met a woman named Mandy and the two got married. After they split up, the younger Robertson returned to New York City and started rooming with Parker. Years later, Dan Slott brought him back in the pages of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. He started a relationship with Front Line reporter Norah Winters which didn’t sit well with Phil Urich, who doubled as The Hobgoblin. The two broke up after the events of Spider-Island when Norah made more of an effort to cover the story than to save Randy’s life!

Next time, tragedy strikes Peter Parker once again when Green Goblin and Gwen Stacy have a date with destiny in the pages of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #121!

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Brandon Montclare muses on where he’d like to send Lunella Lafayette!

That’s one small step for Lunella Lafayette, one giant water-rippling leap for Devil Dinosaur. Get ready for the 10-second countdown as the dynamic duo from writer Brandon Montclare and artist Natacha Bustos blasts off into space.

“Lunella gets into the MoonMobile thinking she knows where she’s going—but will be in for a few detours when ‘Girl-Moon’ starts in [MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #19 on May 24],” says Montclare.

With no shortage of cosmic locales within the Marvel Universe, we asked Brandon to list a few he’d like to visit with these two characters. Take it away, sir!

“While she ping-pongs around the farther reaches of the Marvel Universe, here are some cool places I wish I could have visited with them.”

EGO THE LIVING PLANET: “Lunella and Devil Dinosaur only get to within 238,900 miles of Ego. That seems like a lot, but in planetary terms it’s just a near miss.”


ZENN-LA
: “I think the pair would love the high-tech home of Silver Surfer. Lunella is a city girl, and has never been more than a few miles from her apartment in NYC’s Lower East Side. The science-society of Zenn-La would both make Lunella feel at home, but also be wondrous enough to teach her a bunch of new things.”


THE BLUE AREA OF THE MOON:
” Moon Girl retains complicated feelings towards the Inhumans, and hitting the former location of Attilan would be no pleasure and all business. Lunella has more experience with Kree technology than any other Earthling, and the leftover rubble of the transported Inhuman capital city would be a goldmine.”


PLANET HULK
: “Because Devil Dinosaur needs to have some fun too! He’d love to go a few rounds with the galactic gladiators in the arena.”


ASGARD:
“I want Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur to go there mostly because it means I get to see Natacha Bustos draw the Rainbow Bridge and the Norse/[Jack] Kirby/[Walt] Simonson-influenced lords and ladies. For a compelling story point: Lunella is now The Smartest There Is—that’s becoming well known all over our home planet, but it’s time she starts becoming the brainy ambassador to all our cosmic neighbors.”

Pick up the next installment of MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR tomorrow, May 24, from Brandon Montclare and Natacha Bustos—and be on the lookout for issue #20, coming June 28!

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Margaret Stohl checks out the challenges Carol faces in Secret Empire!

Carol Danvers has gone through a lot lately.

CIVIL WAR II definitely took an emotional toll, and now she faces the betrayal of Steve Rogers in SECRET EMPIRE. MIGHTY CAPTAIN MARVEL writer Margaret Stohl filled us in on Captain Marvel’s headspace, and where she finds herself psychologically and emotionally these days.

Marvel.com: Carol found herself in a pretty dark place at the end of CIVIL WAR II. And now SECRET EMPIRE follows right on its heels. It must feel very draining for Carol psychologically and emotionally. Does watching things play out with Steve erode her faith in some of the things she has believed in even more?

Margaret Stohl: Watching Steve Rogers betray everything that Captain America has always stood for is a crushing blow, not just for Carol but for everyone. On the other hand, she’s also an experienced military leader, and she knows better than anyone that the loss of Captain America only makes the role of Captain Marvel that much more important. She steps up when others step down, and she always has. So no, Steve’s betrayal doesn’t erode her faith, it makes her all the more resolved to defend it—because if she doesn’t, who will?

Marvel.com: Steve left Carol and her team outside the planetary shield surrounding the Earth to face wave after wave of the Chitauri army. What kind of state of mind will she have when she gets back?

Margaret Stohl: Carol has her combat brain on now, which means she only has three things on her mind: how to keep her team alive, how to get them back to Earth, and then how to save it. Her first goal is her team’s survival, particularly the three young cadets—Glory, Dante and A’Di—who were caught outside the shield with her during their training at Alpha Flight. That is priority one. Part of what makes Carol such an effective soldier and leader is her ability to compartmentalize when she has to. Making decisions in the moment is tough, but when a leader doesn’t lead, the people fighting for her die.

Mighty Captain Marvel #6 cover by Elizabeth Torque

Marvel.com: Currently, Carol leads Alpha Flight and plays a major role in the Ultimates. So professionally, she seems to really have things together. But personally, she’s facing more challenges.

Margaret Stohl: Absolutely. Carol’s first arc in 2017 was all about her personal journey back from the events of CIVIL WAR II. This arc is much more of a combat adventure, though even the fact that there are teens on Alpha Flight just shows how much her relationship with the Kree child, Bean, from the past few issues, has impacted her. In general though, I think Carol’s emotions are on hold until she gets through the catastrophe of SECRET EMPIRE. If she ever makes it home, Carol Danvers will have to work to process what has happened—not just to her but to her planet.

Marvel.com: Carol had a falling out with Ms. Marvel during CIVIL WAR II, and America is distancing herself from the Ultimates to go to college. How does it affect Carol to see her protégés walking away?

Margaret Stohl: Carol is a lifer in her fight for what’s right. Like many other heroes, she’s seen plenty of teammates come and go, and while that wears on her, she knows it comes with the gig. That said, I’m not sure she’s ever recovered from the end of her friendship with Kamala Khan. Since Kamala moved on in her life, Carol has taken the time to foster a Kree child and train three Alpha Cadets. I think she deeply feels the loss of Kamala, and is still trying to figure it out.

Marvel.com: I would imagine the fall of Maria Hill has had a pretty significant impact on Carol, as well. The two have had their differences, but have often found themselves in similar situations, and frequently worked together. Does it make Carol feel like maybe the same thing could happen to her? Like she could be forced out of the organizations she cares about?

Margaret Stohl: Women in positions of power are always aware of the fates of their female contemporaries, but at the moment, Carol really is caught up in just getting her butt back to Earth. I don’t know how much time she’s spent thinking about it. She’s much more worried about Wendy, who is trapped somewhere on Earth and away from the rest of the A.F. team.

MIGHTY CAPTAIN MARVEL continues to battle through Secret Empire as depicted in issue #5 on May 31 and issue #6 on June 28, both written by Margaret Stohl with art by Ramon Rosanas and Michele Bandini respectively.

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Brian Michael Bendis wonders what it would take to drive Ironheart over the edge!

The possibility of successfully navigating an angry super villain is approximately three thousand seven hundred and twenty to one! No need to tell Ironheart the odds of victory—chances are, she already knows!

But how invincible is Riri Williams? Can she maintain her sense of youthful idealism and hope in the face of villains seeking her demise daily? Writer Brian Michael Bendis tackles these questions and more not only in the current arc—issue #8 arriving June 21—alongside artist Stefano Caselli, but also in our most recent interview.

Marvel.com: We’ve spoken in the past about Riri Williams as a source of youthful hope for the Marvel Universe. What do you think it is that makes her such a positive character; not just for readers but as a person herself?

Brian Michael Bendis: She has a very unique perspective. I really dove into it when I discovered it, but if I’m honest, it’s hard to describe. She’s a studier. A lot of learning, but not a lot of experience. She has that youthful perspective of not yet knowing just how crappy the world can be. She’s been studying the global situation since she’s been nine years old, but it’s different seeing and experiencing the world versus studying it. That’s something a lot of people can relate to, you know? It’s a real thing in life.

Also, it’s a little similar to what we did with Ultimate Peter Parker in terms of that journey of coming to know something as opposed to just learning about it. But Riri’s process in gaining this perspective couldn’t be more different than Peter’s. The similarity is that they’re both growing up fast as super heroes.

Marvel.com: Sometimes, people do their very best to avoid letting others become aware of their greater weaknesses. What do you think Riri would want to avoid letting people know about herself?

Brian Michael Bendis: She’s terrified. It’s funny, you know? Some people don’t know what they do not know. But then again, there are others who are well aware of what they don’t know and it can be incredibly unnerving. She’s aware of her blind spots, and she can figure out what she doesn’t know.

For example, she could be in a fight and then run the calculations of how much more damage she can take before things go really bad really quickly. And that’s both helpful and a little nerve-wracking to know. With higher intellect comes more fact-based fear.

Marvel.com: Let’s assume you aren’t the mild-mannered writer that you are, and instead, are one of the four-colored comic book villains you write about. How would you go about breaking the heart of Ironheart?

Brian Michael Bendis: [Laughs] I’m actually going to do that in the book, so I can’t tell you that! That’s actually my job: to be the worst person in the world and figure out how to bring low the best person. It’s hilarious you’re asking me that!

Marvel.com: Well, you can’t blame me for trying! Let me ask this another way: How evil are you? What are some ways we can expect to see Ironheart tested to this extent even if in the future? How might you test her limits?

Brian Michael Bendis: [Laughs] Her limits are different. There’s no “Uncle Ben’s killer” to get. It’s not that kind of story. It’s about how she’s going to process her tragedies and move forward in life. That’s what the stories we’re going to tell are going to push her to the limit. Push her up against the wall and make her think twice—like what happened with Peter. How will the technology and legacy that she’s taken on will help her grow?

Invincible Iron Man #8 cover by Stefano Caselli

Marvel.com: It’s interesting as you’ve juxta-positioned Riri against Peter a couple of times. But whereas Peter’s origin seems to be centered around personal responsibility, Riri’s seems more focused on self-assurance.

Brian Michael Bendis: I keep connecting them because, while their stories are so specific, they’re also quite similar in their “everyman” qualities; we can all imagine ourselves in their positions doing something better or more exciting than we might. That’s what inspires.

And going back to your earlier questions, that’s my goal: to create situations that allow me to tell stories where I can push these characters to the extreme. It’s also worth pointing out she’s only two weeks into her super hero origin. She may very well be on a journey that puts her past Ironheart and onto something else. That’s very exciting!

Marvel.com: Looking down that road, there’s a common trope in comics over the past 30 years to go “dark and gritty.” Is this a place you could ever see Riri Williams going?

Brian Michael Bendis: There’s “dark and gritty” and there’s dark and gritty. In a similarly youthful book, Miles finds himself in a pretty dark place. His dark place looks like Matt Murdock’s brunch! [Laughs] It’s all perspective. I look at Riri’s story as a survivor’s tale. I don’t think that kind of darkness has a way “in” right now, but in five years? Who knows? We might discover something that would lend itself to that kind of story. But at the moment, the book is about hope and proactively working to make the world a better place.

As the global news is more chaotic, I’m finding that when I read the scripts back, I’m startled at how intimate and personal they’re getting. Because of that, there’s going to be a lot of “feels” and hope more than I ever have written before.

Marvel.com: Do we need moments of levity when we approach those narrative breaking points for our characters?

Brian Michael Bendis: Yeah, exactly. Fun is a dirty “F word” in some parts of the comics community, but some of my favorite comics right now have a lot of fun in them. Even the darkest ones possess a little fun. You have a suit of armor you made in your garage? You should have fun with it! That would never not be fun—it will always be fun!

See what Brian Michael Bendis and Stefano Caselli have in store for Ironheart in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #8, coming June 21!

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