Brian Michael Bendis shares his formula for creating a better bad guy!

As INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #6 hit shelves this week, readers discovered a rough week for Riri Williams. Not only did she see her latest adventures going viral, but Ironheart had the unenviable position of catching the attention of the latest villain to the “Red and Gold” rogues’ gallery.

Of course, every hero needs a good villain; it comes with the job—and the fancy armor! But not just any baddie will do. So, who better to talk about what goes into crafting the right kind of enemy for an armored super hero like Iron Man or Ironheart than series writer, Brian Michael Bendis?

Marvel.com: Who are your favorite villains in the Marvel Universe, particularly those who existed before you became “Brian Michael Bendis” the comic writer?

Brian Michael Bendis: My favorites are not going to surprise too many people. Magneto is probably the [most well created] villain as far as craft goes. Here’s a character who teeters on the verge of madness, but we’ve also seen what’s formed him. We know what drives him. We understand and empathize with his point of view. We may even agree with it. We just can’t agree with how far he’ll go to make it happen. And that makes him a phenomenal antagonist. You can create a villain who not only does the audience like but also agree with. But then he goes and does something, and that’s where he loses them.

I’m going to switch to Doctor Doom for a minute here, but it holds with Magneto, too. There’s a real winning personality most writers have been able to find within the “Bwwaa ha ha” bad guy moments where we see this villain is a real person. When I picked my members of the Cabal, those characters were six of my favorite villains and there they were. That dynamic was ideal because they’re all Type A personalities with very clear agendas. They’re all broken in some way, and they wear it on their sleeves. What makes for a better “Twelve Angry Men” than that?

Marvel.com: What about these villains makes them compelling characters for you not only as a reader but also as a creator?

Brian Michael Bendis: You know, so many people wonder why we like Walter White from “Breaking Bad.” You don’t have to like these characters, you just like watching people be very good at what they do. Take a look at Tony Soprano and what he did. Walter White was better! And it’s fun to see people be good at their job. Even TLC reality shows do this same thing with their extravagant home flipping and wild motorcycle building series. That’s what makes villains captivating: seeing them pull of these grand plans better than anyone else!

Marvel.com: Of course, you’ve done more than just play with other people’s toys; you’ve created your fair share of characters as well during your tenure at Marvel. What do you think helps villains make the greatest impact, both on fans and on the residents of the Marvel Universe?

Brian Michael Bendis: There are two things I’ve always wanted to accomplish. Every creator— no matter the medium—has certain “itches” that they want to scratch. It doesn’t matter how many times you scratch it, you just can’t help but go back there for more, you know? With me, this idea of taking a villain like The Purple Man and scraping off the comic book silliness—and I mean that not at all in a pejorative sense, but as someone who loves it—but to scrape off all of the “stuff” and get to the true horror of the character, what it can do and what it represents. From there, I want to be able to tell a story that gives the ultimate version of its power and form, and from there, it becomes impossible to disassociate the villain from the respective hero. It’s definitely something I got to do with Purple Man and Jessica Jones.

The same notion, that I’m in the middle of right now, is the other big mountain that I’ve wanted to climb. I’ve done versions of this before, but I’m fascinated with [something] right now, and that is when people land themselves in these deep, dark pits and have to crawl out of them. The one that Victor Von Doom is in right now and is trying to pull himself from in INFAMOUS IRON MAN is the biggest hole anyone’s ever tried to escape from—to be honest—all of literature from the dawn of man. To go from what he did in [Secret Wars], which was an abomination of all things, and now here he is trying to redeem himself from that? It’s so much fun to write.

Marvel.com: It goes back to your previous point about villains where we may have a good idea about the end result, but it’s watching the path that the character takes to get there that imparts a sense of closure—that proves satisfying for us as readers.

Brian Michael Bendis: Exactly, especially when the Marvel Universe never closes and its characters are always in motion and moving in different directions. So, to take a moment to zero in on a character and explore what he or she wants and how far that person will go to get it is really some of the most fun you can have as a writer. Look through the eyes of Magneto? I’m Jewish, I get it! [Laughs] But would I go where he goes? Of course not! But trying to put yourself in his shoes is a pretty interesting thing.

Marvel.com: We’ve been looking at things from a broader perspective, but let’s drill down a bit and look at both Iron Man and Ironheart.

Given that both characters’ heroic personas evolve from their powerful armor, how does this affect the way you go about developing a villain? Is it the person in the armor or the armor on the person that drives the development of their enemies?

Brian Michael Bendis: [Laughs] You said a lot there—that was like 30 questions! But they’re all excellent ones. This is all I’ve been thinking about lately with these two characters. Yes, with Iron Man, the metaphor of the armor isn’t lost on anyone including the person in the armor. They’re all smart enough to get how he’s wrapped himself in this protective cocoon so the bad people can’t hurt me anymore. So, there’s that.

But what they do with the armor? Wearing armor goes back thousands of years. Who doesn’t think about armor and King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table from hundreds of years ago? Armor has been used for many reasons: religious, military, iconic. For Victor, he’s clearly working on some level where technology and all things mystic are merging. And this is something I’ll be playing out not just in his book but others as well. Stuff I hinted at years ago with Tony Stark, Sorcerer Supreme in the future. There’s an argument that says the Singularity might still come from man, and a character like Tony might have decided that when the Singularity comes, he might want it to be him.

With all of that in mind, I’ve given a lot of thought over the armor Victor has and what it could do along with how he uses his sorcerer abilities to enhance what it can do. Then we have Riri who has designed her armor using the base of Tony’s ideas, but then we’re already seeing that she’s added things to [hers] that his could not do. I think we’re seeing that [it] will be, as issues go on, it’s going to be both fun and frustrating. Just when you start to like something that her armor can do, it will change. But that’s just like her: Riri is also in a state of constant fluctuation personally.

Marvel.com: Which brings us to the issue of the villains…

Brian Michael Bendis: Right. The other question you asked centered on the villains that are developed around these heroes. Looking at these heroes, whose powers center around technology, the one thing that stands in direct contrast would be something organic, right? Something that can’t be controlled by technology. Hulk vs Iron Man is the perfect [example] of this conflict as they’re getting their powers from different places. One is getting stronger as the other is growing weaker. I love this character, Animax, that we recently introduced. She’s this mutant who can basically create creatures out of nothing. Monstrous creatures are great for an armored hero to fight!

Interestingly, that character was co-created by my daughter Olivia, and Matt Fraction and Kelly Sue DeConnick’s son, Henry Leo. I was sitting at the table and I said “I need a villain!” and Henry Leo responded “It’s a woman, she’s a mutant, and she shoots animals out of her hands.” And then I asked Olivia, “What’s her name?” to which she replied “Animax.” And there you go. Thanks, guys! So, sometimes it’s as fun as that to dip into that sort of childhood imagination, or in my case, I stole it from our children. But I feed and clothe them, so it’s okay.

But then we have another interesting villain named Tomo the techno-golem, who’s running the Japanese underworld and has the power to take over and overload technology. Both Tony and Riri are trying to figure out how her power works. It’s either a level of technology they can’t understand or Tomo’s invented it. In either case, this presents a real challenge for Tony and Riri, and it’s something they can’t really seem to figure out right now. Already the villain is developing faster than they can! It kind of speaks to the larger challenge these technologically-based heroes face, and that’s the danger of becoming obsolete. Anyone who’s working at Apple or Sony will tell you there is this feeling of being constantly chased and becoming nothing more than an old Walk-Man. And that’s the legacy for a hero who works in a suit of armor.

Marvel.com: Iron Man’s made a lot of enemies over the years, and so, finding villains ready and willing to do battle with a red-and-gold armored hero shouldn’t be difficult. Does Riri need her own villains or do you think it would work perfectly fine for her to go on tackling some of the members from Tony’s rogues’ gallery?

Brian Michael Bendis: I feel the same way about Miles Morales as I do Riri. Anywhere I can add toys to the toy box, then by all means. It’s important to me to add as many as I’ve either used or broken! So, yes, I’ve been actively looking to invent new villains for the Iron Man world. It was actually the second item on my list when I knew I’d gotten the chance to take over Iron Man: work on the rogues’ gallery. But the reason I don’t want to do 100% brand new villains is that it would create a sort of disconnect. Why isn’t Miles bumping into Shocker at some point or another? He’s there. Is this the same world or not? That’s where my head’s at.

But yeah, there will be new characters. It goes back to Joker and Batman, right? When you have a new hero who comes out and announces him or herself to the world, it creates a sort of challenge to less heroic characters to step up. It’s a billiard ball effect where people respond in a myriad of different ways that the hero will have to deal with.

Marvel.com: Last question: Some might argue that Tony’s greatest enemy is himself. Do you think that’s the case for Riri? Why or why not?

Brian Michael Bendis: Riri doesn’t know who she is yet. She’s fiercely intelligent [and] discovering new things about herself each day. So, no, I don’t think she’s in the position to be her own worst enemy yet, you know? So far, her choices have been very heroic.

And this is where I’d disagree with the idea of Tony being his own worst enemy and put him on a higher pedestal than some do. Because they’re not wrong. That philosophy is more popular than mine. While Tony has a self-destructive streak, he always does the right thing. With everything he’s been through and the addictions he’s struggled through—even though he’s not with us anymore—it appears to be the work of a very heroic and noble man, who may not see that in himself. He may knock himself down in the Second Act, but he always gets back up.

Find out who’s targeting Riri next in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #7, available May 17 by Brian Michael Bendis and Stefano Caselli!

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Marc Guggenheim welcomes back the Ragin’ Cajun by sharing his favorite stories!

Gambit’s back in X-MEN: GOLD #4 on May 17, and you can bet he’s bringing his own brand of Louisiana charm and a little trouble with him. To commemorate this homecoming of x-treme proportions, we spoke with writer Marc Guggenheim to take a look back at three of Remy LeBeau’s greatest stories and what might be in store for him in the upcoming arc.

Uncanny X-Men (1963) #266

Uncanny X-Men (1963) #266

What is Marvel Unlimited?
Coming in first we have, rather appropriately, Gambit’s original appearance in UNCANNY X-MEN #266 written by Chris Claremont with art by Mike Collins. “He came onto the stage fully formed and really hijacks the story away from young Storm,” says Guggenheim. This appearance also kicks off Gambit and Storm’s long running relationship, which Guggenheim says he’s happy to get to play off in the new series. What better way to do that then to bring back Remy’s days as a master thief? And while Guggenheim takes a more traditional approach to the Cajun, staying true to the voice he has engrained in his head from years of reading the original comics, he did say he loves a good pun so that might just be in the cards for us, mes amis!

Gambit (1993) #1

Gambit (1993) #1

  • Published: December 01, 1993
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: April 28, 2011
  • Rating: T
What is Marvel Unlimited?
Next we have the Ragin’ Cajun’s original limited series, GAMBIT, written by Howard Mackie with art by Lee Weeks. This marked the first time we see Remy as a stand-alone character and according to Guggenheim, it’s where you realize that he can really hold a spotlight with that down-home twang and devil-may-care attitude. “He’s a slightly more morally compromised Han Solo,” says Guggenheim adding that he believes X-MEN: GOLD #4 artist RB Silva’s style perfectly suits the task of capturing that unburdened and free feel Gambit brings with him. All and all we can expect more of the old school Mardi Gras feel you’ve come to expect from the bayou boy.

X-Men (1991) #24

X-Men (1991) #24

What is Marvel Unlimited?
Finally, any story that ships Gambit and his ‘chere,’ Rogue, as hard as Guggenheim does. “There is just something very pure about being in love with someone you can’t have a physical relationship with,” says the writer. Quick recap: Rogue’s powers allow her to absorb another’s memories, abilities, personality and physical traits through skin-to-skin touch but prolonged contact proves quite harmful to those around her. So despite his borderline narcissistic confidence Gambit’s advances often get met with a stone cold poker face. We have to hand it to the guy though, with all the obstacles standing in their way he sure hangs in there for his ladylove. There must be a real spark between the two.

Be sure to catch all the card-throwing, ego, and Cajun lingo May 17 in the new X-MEN: GOLD #4 by Marc Guggenheim and RB Silva!    

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Artist Niko Henrichon ushers in a new era for the Sorcerer Supreme!

Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo might be leaving DOCTOR STRANGE with #20, but that doesn’t mean the magic stops there. In fact, a completely new creative team stands ready to pick up the Master of the Mystic Arts’ adventures with the following issue, which hits on May 31.

Writer Dennis Hopeless and artist Niko Henrichon will kick off their run just as Secret Empire invades the Marvel Universe. As Stephen defends the world against the magical forces involved, the neophyte creative team will continue getting to know their lead.

We talked with Henrichon about tackling an event tie-in, working with Hopeless, and the appeal of Doctor Strange’s wild world.

Marvel.com: What is it about Doctor Strange that attracted you as an artist?

Niko Henrichon: Until recently, the character was very mysterious to me. I saw him from time to time in various comics but never really followed closely. It’s only recently that I discovered the fantastic work of Steve Ditko on the original [Doctor Strange stories in STRANGE TALES]. Obviously, I enjoyed the recent movie and thought they really nailed the psychedelic aspect of the parallel worlds featured in an amazing way in Ditko’s Doctor Strange.

So, when I [received an offer] to follow with Dennis Hopeless as the writer, after the run of Aaron and Bachalo, I immediately accepted. I’ve spent the last seven or eight years doing albums for the French European market. I had the chance to work on ambitious projects there, but now it feels great to come back to comics. There’s something fresh and dynamic about [American] comics. The fast storytelling, the smaller pages, I love it.

Marvel.com: Do you have plans to give Stephen a new look for the series?

Niko Henrichon: The story picks up after Aaron and Bachalo’s run so we’re keeping the look as it was before. For the future, I guess it will depend on how the story develops.

Marvel.com: As it happens, your first issue with Dennis on the book coincides with the Secret Empire crossover. How will that play into the story?

Niko Henrichon: That question would be more suitable for Dennis but I feel like we’re really focusing on Doctor Strange’s own journey, along with his colleagues.

Marvel.com: Do you enjoy the challenge of designing the kinds fantastical and supernatural elements that appear in a book like DOCTOR STRANGE?

Niko Henrichon: Yes I do! I love the monster design job. This book has a lot of them so it’s a real delight.

Marvel.com: How has it been working with Dennis on these issues so far?

Niko Henrichon: Really bad! No seriously, Dennis is great to work with. His writing [perfectly balances] between creative freedom and storytelling tightness. The way you want a Marvel book to feel like.

To see what happens when the Sorcerer Supreme feels the effects of Secret Empire, check out DOCTOR STRANGE #21 by Dennis Hopeless and Niko Henrichon on May 31!

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How did the most beloved hero in the Marvel Universe become its most dangerous enemy?

Each week, we use our super sleuth skills to dig into the histories of the characters fighting on both sides of Secret Empire!

Over a year ago, Captain America uttered two words that sent the comic-reading world into an uproar: “Hail Hydra.” Since then, this new version of an old hero has worked to secretly aid his beloved organization, especially in the pages of CAPTAIN AMERICA: STEVE ROGERS by Nick Spencer and regular artist Jesus Saiz.

This week, however, the Marvel Universe finally started understanding the truth with the publication of SECRET EMPIRE #0 by Spencer along with artists Daniel Acuna and Rod Reis. Captain America hasn’t just been working for Hydra this whole time, he’s been orchestrating a three-pronged attack on the entire planet in his efforts to tear down the existing framework of society and rebuild it from the ground up.

In addition to drawing an immense Chitauri army by capturing and holding a queen on Earth, Rogers also orchestrated the creation of an army of super villains to attack Manhattan and even got the U.S. government to completely sign over power to him. In other words, he has the world in his grasp and simply needs to squeeze.

But how did it all come to this? How did one of the greatest heroes ever created, a man who’s patriotism and leadership have inspired others since his creation in 1941, go so bad? Not to deflect blame from the perpetrator, but The Red Skull pulled all the strings.

As explained in CAPTAIN AMERICA: STEVE ROGERS #2 by the Skull himself, Kobik actually came from the Cosmic Cube destroyed in a battle between the villain and Captain America, as seen way back in CAPTAIN AMERICA #448. After re-forming as a child, she sought out the man she had spent so much time with previously. With the entity in his grasp, the Skull indoctrinated her with stories about the greatness of Hydra.

So, what does all this have to do with Captain America? Well, when Maria Hill decided to use Kobik to create Pleasant Hill—a prison for super villains changed by the Cosmic Cube into supposedly peaceful individuals—she actually played into the Skull’s plans. After Sam Wilson, Bucky Barnes, Steve Rogers—then transformed to his actual physical age—and other heroes found out about the prison, they demanded it be shut down. Following an attack by Crossbones in Pleasant Hill, Cap got his youth and power restored by Kobik who didn’t want anything bad to happen.

Captain America: Steve Rogers (2016) #1

Captain America: Steve Rogers (2016) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?

Now, here’s where things get tricky. According to Red Skull, at this moment he had Kobik rewrite all of Steve’s memories, which explains the mostly black and white flashbacks seen throughout his solo book. Instead of dedicating himself to the individual-praising doctrines of the United States, Steve learned the true power of working together from Hydra. Instead of growing up in New York City until he entered into Project Rebirth, a woman named Elisa took him to a Hydra camp where he and other children trained to become agents. There he met Helmut Zemo and the two became lifelong friends.

In his mind, Steve took on the assignment to kill Dr. Erskine, the man who created the Super Soldier Serum. Instead, Helmut pulled the trigger, but Hydra arranged for Arnim Zola to take over and still give Steve the serum which produced Captain America. Rogers served during World War II for the Allies, but secretly still worked for Hydra. In that version of history, the Axis powers won, but the Allies developed a Cosmic Cube that would supposedly allow them to rewrite history. In the pages of SECRET EMPIRE #0, Kraken explained to Steve that he would enter into this new world and be something very different, but would eventually wake up when Kobik touched him.

Restored to his Hydra-loving ways, Steve started working with Red Skull, though also against him. It turned out that, to Captain America, Hydra represented a more pure idea and that the Skull had tarnished it by recruiting racists and making it all about himself. After much subterfuge, Cap killed Skull in CAPTAIN AMERICA: STEVE ROGERS #15 and continued with his plans to move the proper Hydra to the forefront of humanity.

Now the question becomes, who can stop the world’s most experienced tactician? Well, hopefully the combined might of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes…

The Empire Strikes Back

Unfortunately, Secret Empire does not mark the first time that Captain America wound up working for The Red Skull. Co-creator Jack Kirby had the villain recount his own origin to a bound Sentinel of Liberty way back in TALES OF SUSPENSE #66. The tale gave a chemical enough time to work its way into Cap’s system and allow the bad guys to seemingly order him to attack the Supreme Commander of the Allied Armies in the following issue. Before the mission itself in issue #67, the Skull introduced Cap to Hitler and then sent him after his target. Bucky infiltrated the accompanying Nazi squad, but couldn’t fully shake Steve out of his stupor. Finally, in #68, it’s explained that Cap snapped out of the Skull’s control when he had the gun pointed at the General, causing him to return to his heroic state of mind.

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Participate with quizzes, puzzles, exclusive first looks, and more for Secret Empire!

Marvel is excited to announce an all-new way to interact directly with the Marvel Universe, with Marvel’s first chatbot. Timed with the release of Marvel Comics’ Secret Empire, fans will have the ability to directly chat with some of their favorite Marvel Super Heroes and be a part of the Marvel Universe through Facebook Messenger and Twitter DM. Powered by Conversable, this new chatbot experience presents a bold and exciting new way for fans to interact with some of Marvel’s most popular heroes who are directly in the throes of Marvel Comics’ Secret Empire!

At launch, in support of Marvel Comics’ Secret Empire event, the Marvel chatbot will allow fans the ability to converse with everyone’s favorite neighborhood wall-crawler, Spider-Man! Fans will also be able to engage in fun quizzes and puzzles, receive exclusive first-looks, and find their local comic shops.

“Marvel will always be on the forefront of exciting new ways for fans to experience the Marvel Universe,” said Julie Gerola, VP/GM Marketing & Digital Operations. “We are so excited to debut a brand new way for our fans to engage directly with some of the Marvel characters during the events of Secret Empire and have the added ability to have their local comic shop’s location sent directly to them so that they can further explore the entire Marvel Universe.”

The chatbot, produced in partnership with Conversable Inc., leverages natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning to engage users with an entirely unique adventure written by Eisner Award-winning author, Jim McCann.

“When it comes to loyalty and engagement, Marvel stands out as a leader. As consumers move to new platforms, it’s more important than ever for brands to meet their audience where they are,” said Ben Lamm, CEO of Conversable. “What Marvel is doing is a truly original way for such a creative organization to engage customers and tell stories through new mediums. Through the power of conversational intelligence, fans can go from bystander to fully immersed in the Marvel Universe and become part of the story.”

All of this, plus much more, will be delivered directly to fans’ mobile devices and desktops through Facebook Messenger and Twitter DM. What will you say to Spider-Man? What kind of Easter eggs will you be able to find? Find out this spring from Marvel Comics during the launch of SECRET EMPIRE #1 in comic shops May 3!

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Cullen Bunn digs up his favorite stories starring the killer robots!

Ever since they first debuted back in the mid-1960s, the Sentinels have become an indelible part of X-Men mythology. Created by the dynamite duo of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby—and by Bolivar Trask in the comics—they’ve taken different forms and served several masters over the years, but one thing remains constant about the purpose of their existence when it comes to the X-Men: Detecting and destroying mutants.

“Sentinels are so iconic,” says Cullen Bunn, author of the currently running X-MEN: BLUE, which will host the return of the malevolent mechanical menaces this May. “I can barely imagine the X-Men without them. They’re terrific adversaries, because—in most cases—they simply have no human personalities. They exist for one purpose—to destroy mutants—and they follow that directive with cold mercilessness.”

Since “[X-MEN: BLUE] issues #2 and #3 are loaded with Sentinels,” according to Cullen, we asked him to recount his favorite Sentinel stories from over the years.

Read on for some rock em’ sock em’ robot mayhem!

“Merry Christmas, X-Men–The Sentinels Have Returned!,” “Deathstar Rising,” and “Greater Love Hath No X-Man” in UNCANNY X-MEN #98, #99, and #100:

“Sentinels know no holidays. They attack the X-Men…on Christmas! That’s just eeeeeeevil! And then, we get some crazy Sentinel versus mutant action…in space!”

Uncanny X-Men (1963) #142

Uncanny X-Men (1963) #142

What is Marvel Unlimited?
“Days of Future Past” in UNCANNY X-MEN #141 and #142:

“I remember picking up [UNCANNY X-MEN] #142—I read them out of order back in the day—and thinking that the image on the cover could not possibly be reflective of the contents. But it was. I can barely think of a scarier representation of the lethal capabilities of the Sentinels.”

Uncanny X-Men (1963) #194

Uncanny X-Men (1963) #194

What is Marvel Unlimited?
The Nimrod stories in UNCANNY X-MEN #194, #209, and #210:

“Nimrod—and later Bastion—has always been a favorite character of mine. He had all the cold mercilessness of the Sentinels, but he also had a bit of personality, too. And I loved that he had these automatic countermeasures for anything his mutant prey [threw] at him.”

New X-Men (2001) #114

New X-Men (2001) #114

What is Marvel Unlimited?
“E Is for Extinction” in NEW X-MEN #114-#116:

“Not only did this story give us Casandra Nova, but it provided one of the most chilling examples of Sentinel power. 16 million mutants killed in the blink of an eye. It was terrifying and grim and awful. After so many years as X-Villains, the Sentinels get a big shot of nastiness in the arm.”

See the Sentinels back in action with X-MEN: BLUE issues #2 and #3, available April 26 and May 10 respectively from Cullen Bunn and Jorge Molina!

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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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Artist Amilcar Pinna joins Jubilee and friends in a new series!

Not everyone can be a super-cool super hero. Some just aren’t born with the abilities to run around saving the world with epic powers. Some have eyes on their tongue, but still need some guidance when it comes to dealing with a world that fears and hates them.

That’s the basic idea behind writer Christina Strain and artist Amilcar Pinna’s May 17-launching GENERATION X series. Though it stars Jubilee in a kind of leader-teacher role, the rest of the cast includes Quentin Quire, Eye-Boy, Nature Girl, Bling!, Benjamin Deeds, and the brand new creation Nathaniel Carver.

We talked with Pinna about bringing together such an unusual team, working with Strain to put their own spin on these characters, and the joys of working with misfits of the mutant world.

Marvel.com: You’ve done team books before; what sets GENERATION X apart from some of the others?

Amilcar Pinna: The approach and mood, I think, it is more like NYX or RUNAWAYS, young characters dealing with emotions and tough situations. I like that! I loved RUNAWAYS, and working on something like GENERATION X is like a dream!

Marvel.com: This take on Generation X revolves around misfit mutants who don’t fit in anywhere else. How does that come across when they’re working together?

Amilcar Pinna: It is really challenging and fun. Every character is so well written! The chemistry between them is really fun to draw, how each one of them deals with things and situations. I’m trying to deliver those differences between characters on the pages the best that I can.

Marvel.com: Two of the more well-known members of the team are Jubilee and Quentin Quire. How do they play off of one another in both the quieter and more action oriented scenes?

Amilcar Pinna: Jubilee is more like an older sister. A tough single mom too! She can be fun but she is a tough mother and sometimes she has to make some order in the house. Also she kicks ass when needed.

Quentin is a “too cool for school” kind [of] guy and such a cool character to draw. He is powerful and sometimes does not make good judgment calls when it comes to dealing with dangerous situations, so Jubilee has to play that older sister to him.

Marvel.com: You’re also dealing with existing characters like Eye-Boy, Benjamin Deeds, Nature Girl, and Bling! How was it getting their looks down and putting your own spin on them?

Amilcar Pinna: I had so much fun doing studies for them. When I was doing sketches Christina helped me a lot with ideas for them, and I really relate to her ideas about clothing and personality types, so it was really fun!

Marvel.com: GENERATION X also features a new creation in Nathaniel Carver. Did you have a hand in designing him? If so what was that like?

Amilcar Pinna: Same process: I did sketches with some guidance from Christina. Like what he likes to wear and so on. Christina has a good sense of fashion, that is so nice!

Marvel.com: With this book you’re juggling mutants, adventures, drama, and even a new school set in Central Park. Do you enjoy playing with all of those elements and making them work on the page?

Amilcar Pinna: Oh yeah, this title is so much fun! I really enjoy the mutant universe and GENERATION X is the kind of work that I’ve always wanted it to do! It’s quite a nice experience!

Marvel.com: It sounds like you and Christina work well together. Does she approach scripts differently than other writers given her experience as a colorist and artist herself?

Amilcar Pinna: I believe the fact that she is a colorist and artist does change the way that she approaches the script, definitely. She has a great sense of what is going to look cool on a page! I always have fun reading the scripts and want to know what will come next! I’m loving working with her on this!

To see what Christina Strain and Amilcar Pinna have in store for this new band of mutant misfits, check out GENERATION X #1 on May 17!

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Learn how the evil organization got its start!

For years, Hydra has lurked in the shadows of the Marvel Universe, a corrupting influence that taxed even the greatest of heroes. With the group scoring their greatest victory in Secret Empire, we take a look back at the History of Hydra…

Though some believe the roots of Hydra’s subversive evil grew out of the early 20th century, its tendrils in fact date back centuries and beyond, making the organization one of the oldest on Earth.

Few records exist of Hydra’s birth, but stories persist of a species of cold-blooded alien reptiles that came to our planet in the time before mankind’s assent and planted the seed that flourished into today’s evil empire. Eager for power and to spread darkness, the aliens branched out to touch upon many paths to their goals, thus first cementing the idea of a many-headed creature, undying and malignant.

Their first real victory in this campaign arrived in the seduction and infection of an Eastern society of intelligent and clever men called the Brotherhood of the Spear. So virulent did stain upon them prove that their enemies, the Brotherhood of the Shield, began to refer to them simply as “The Beast,” echoing ancient beliefs in a devilish presence.

By the time of the great dynasties of ancient Egypt, the proto-Hydra encompassed other great yet shadowy sects and cults. This too furthered the image of the legendary hydra among impressionable and superstitious minds as the group’s evil purpose thrived and grew. Interestingly, as the great Renaissance captured the imaginations of people throughout Europe, Hydra seemed to wane, eventually disappearing into obscurity as that remarkable period in Earth’s history came to an end.

For Hydra to rise again and continue on its march toward total world domination, it needed both a powerful, central figure to lead it, and an epic, worldwide crisis for it to take advantage of. These arrived in the form of Baron Wolfgang von Strucker and the conflict known as World War II…

Further Reading: SECRET WARRIORS #1, S.H.I.E.L.D. #4, WOLVERINE #29

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Before you play the new game, read up on its comic book prequel!

The Guardians of the Galaxy have defied expectations, as the ragtag team of space adventurers jumped from comics to movies to cartoons and now video games with “Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series,” an interactive episodic game series launching today.

But wait—it doesn’t end there.

The team has now come full circle, as writer Fred Van Lente and artist Salva Espin get set to tell the story of what happened before the story that will unfold in the game with GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: THE TELLTALE SERIES, a five-issue comic book prequel to Telltale’s game beginning in July.

We caught up with Van Lente and Marvel Games Creative Director Bill Rosemann to find out more about the new series.

Marvel.com: Fred, you’re working on a comic based on the Guardians of the Galaxy video game…which in turn was based on the comic. What’s it been like working on this particular version of the characters?

Fred Van Lente: Though the Telltale Series takes place in its own universe separate from either [the Marvel Universe] or the [Marvel Cinematic Universe], the Guardians should be pretty familiar with everyone who’s seen the movie. Star-Lord is brash and cocky, Gamora is a badass, Drax doesn’t get metaphors, Rocket is driven by money and gadgetry, and Groot is…you know. He’s Groot.

Marvel.com: What details can you share on the story? I hear there’s a heist. Any hints on what the Guardians are looking for?

Fred Van Lente: Let’s see here…how to answer this without getting too spoilery…they have to perform a rescue mission from the gladiatorial pits of Sakaar—which I wrote way before the “Thor: Ragnarok” trailer came out; I swear—that leads them to an even bigger score. I won’t give away what it is they’re after, but it sets [up] the plot of the Telltale Series nicely. Suffice it to say it is found [on] Titan, the homeworld of the Death-obsessed Thanos, currently taken over by wall-to-wall scum and villainy who worship him as a god! This is a science fiction heist like no other, where one misstep is death.

Marvel.com: Which characters have you really enjoyed writing for this project? Who stands out or surprised you with how much you enjoyed writing them?

Fred Van Lente: You know, I’ve long been a big Guardians fan, dating back to the original team with Martinex and Vance Astro and the like, but this is the first time I’ve ever actually written them. I am pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoy Quill. I always like lovable rogue characters, but he’s vulnerable enough—and just unsure enough of himself—to make his arc really interesting.

Marvel.com: What sort of “research” has gone into this book? And by that I mean, how many hours have you logged playing the game?

Fred Van Lente: [Laughs] Telltale was kind enough to send the first chapter of the series over for me, and I must say it is pretty rad. I think both Telltale fans and Guardians fans are going to be super-pleased.

Marvel.com: Telltale has a reputation for telling great stories with their games. What’s it been like working with them on the comic?

Fred Van Lente: Very cool. I have actually written for them before on the games side, and it is great to work with a gaming company that places such an importance on story; and this comics adventure will reflect that as well.

Marvel.com: Bill, you have a long history with the Guardians of the Galaxy. Did you ever expect to see this ragtag group you helped put together find such success both in comics and in other media?

Bill Rosemann: Yes, I absolutely believed in the Guardians’ potential. Our underdogs were a diamond in the rough. They are as relatable and complex and inspirational as all of Marvel’s best characters; they just needed the platform and spotlight. And as a real-life father, this feels—in an odd and smaller way—like a proud papa watching his kids up on stage showing the world what you’ve always loved and believed about them. You’re happy, you’re proud, you’re humbled, and you know you’re lucky to have been given the opportunity to have—along with many, many others who equally love them—a [role] in their well-earned and deserved success.

Marvel.com: Do you have any hints or teases as to what folks can expect from the comic as well as the game it’s based on?

Bill Rosemann: As with all of Telltale’s award-winning games, our experience is chock full of the drama, humor, spectacle, emotion and stakes that are shaped by every decision that the player makes. You are Star-Lord, and the choices you make—both your words to your actions—influence in positive and negative ways the health and very survival of not only entire civilizations, but in a very personal way, your [makeshift]—and no less loved—family. Accordingly, the editorial team of Jordan White, Darren Shan and Kathleen Wisneski, were so smart in their casting of writer Fred Van Lente and artist Salva Espin, who are perfect picks to not only deliver all of these elements, but expand the story to look at the crazy events that led to the start of our game!

Marvel.com: With Guardians and other games like “Marvel Avengers Academy,” it seems that your team is creating worlds that are similar to, yet also somewhat distinct from, what we’re seeing in the comic book Marvel Universe. Are there other video game projects you’d like to see become comics as well?

Bill Rosemann: Our team views each of our games as standalone experiences that—while being inspired by our awesome comics, TV shows and films—unite the greatest characters with the best partners to deliver the most accessible, epic and all-new stories to Marvel fans. We are obsessed with delivering the best games, period. That said, if editors and creators are inspired to join the fun, we’d love to see additional games like “Marvel Future Fight,” “Marvel Heroes Omega,” “Avengers Academy,” “Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite,” “Spider-Man” and [our upcoming] Avengers project leap into comic book form. So as Stan Lee himself says, “Stay tuned, True Believers!”

Play “Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series” right now, and read GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: THE TELLTALE SERIES from Fred Van Lente and Salva Espin starting in July!

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