Writer Jason Aaron reflects back on his run with the Sorcerer Supreme!

We find ourselves at the end of an era, folks. Just as Stephen Strange once faced The Last Days of Magic, writer Jason Aaron finds himself fast approaching the final installment of his nearly two-year run on DOCTOR STRANGE with issue #20 coming May 17. No need to worry, though, because the MIGHTY THOR writer says he has more plans in store for the Sorcerer Supreme.

Jason worked some of his magic on us to deliver a few poignant thoughts on a comic that means a lot to him and the Marvel Universe. Prepare for things to get strange—well, stranger than usual anyway.

Marvel.com: You’ve been writing DOCTOR STRANGE for nearly two years. What has been your favorite part about writing for Stephen Strange? Put another way: What was been the most magical part?

Jason Aaron: I think to me, the most important part coming in was just making the book fun. DOCTOR STRANGE as a series is one that didn’t always catch on. We hadn’t had a solo DOCTOR STRANGE ongoing in a quite a while so the character is sometimes hard for people to connect with or relate to and his world maybe seems so different compared to the rest of the Marvel Universe and maybe a little impenetrable. So I wanted it to be welcoming to people who’d never read a STRANGE book before, but also at the same time, something that could be embraced by the longtime fans of the character and as part of that, I wanted to make it fun to hang out with Stephen Strange and embrace the fact that he is very different from the all the rest of the heroes of the Marvel Universe; I did want to give a weight to what Strange goes through and let you understand a little bit about what it’s like to be him and the price he has to pay to be the Sorcerer Supreme. It’s not like Cap throwing a shield or Thor throwing a hammer. There’s a real price to be paid every time Doctor Strange uses magic. Sometimes that’s a price that’s paid by other people, by the world at large, but most often that’s the price that’s paid by him. So I think we demonstrated that in a lot of different ways and just how difficult it is to be the Sorcerer Supreme. I like kind of that dichotomy and the fact that Doctor Strange seems to be having a good time, the guy even embraces the weirdest little corner of the Marvel Universe, but at the same time, you don’t really wanna be Doctor Strange. It’s not a fun gig.

Marvel.com: Which character, hero or villain, have you most identified with and why?

Jason Aaron: I think it was nice to add a character like Zelma [the librarian] to the mix, someone who came into Strange’s world with fresh eyes, someone who didn’t really even believe in magic before that and certainly didn’t embrace the weirdness in a way that Strange does so I liked seeing [the weirdness] through her eyes and seeing how that experience has changed her along the way, which we really drive that point home in the last issue, issue #20.

Marvel.com: Under your direction, Stephen went from the top of his game as a Sorcerer Supreme to seeing magic die off. Can you discuss the process of crafting this roller coaster-esque odyssey for such a unique character and the challenges therein?

Jason Aaron: I like the way of sort of establishing Strange and the beat he walks as Sorcerer Supreme and what it’s like to him. I like the idea of [villains] who really [burn] his world to the ground—I think from there we start to kind of rebuild it. [We put] a few more limits on his powers; Strange has become kind of a deus ex machina for a while in the Marvel [Universe] where he could always just sort of show up and wave his fingers and save the day so I wanted to get away from that and show it’s a lot harder for him to be who he is and to do what he does, show him really have to fight and struggle for it, sometimes literally. We wanted him to be able to mix it up a little bit more and not just stand around and shoot magical energy blasts, but have to pick up a weapon and jump into the fray more than we’re used to seeing.

Doctor Strange #20 cover

Marvel.com: Another theme in the comic is the existence of supernatural horrors just beyond the veil of human comprehension, which was brought to vivid life by Chris Bachalo’s artwork. Was the cosmic horror and weird fiction of H.P. Lovecraft an influence at all?

Jason Aaron: Sure. I’ve read a lot of Lovecraft and love it. I think, again, that Doctor Strange is very different from all the other heroes in the Marvel Universe and that he’s the guy who walks a very different sort of beat and has to deal with threats that most of the other heroes may not even know exist. We wanted to drive that home and Chris has been a huge part of that. Right out of the gate in issue #1 we did the bit where we kind of see the world through Doctor Strange’s eyes; we call it “Strange Vision” where we see the normal world kind of go into black and white and we see all the things that only someone like Stephen Strange can see in pop and color. Chris is the perfect artist to do stuff like that. He really took it to another level on this. All along the way, once he was on board, he’s been filled with all sorts of crazy ideas with stuff to put in this book, visually, and has taken it to some really wild, imaginative places.

Marvel.com: What was it like writing this comic in the midst of big releases like the “Doctor Strange” movie that helped propel Stephen to a status of fame that he may not have enjoyed before?

Jason Aaron: Yeah, I think that’s really cool. Certainly anything that helps get more eyes on the comics, I’m always a fan of. I really enjoyed the movie, I really liked the tone of it and it felt like the movie and the comic were kind of pulling in the same direction in that regard. I’m really excited to see Strange pop up again in the [Marvel] Cinematic Universe.

Marvel.com: What hints and/or spoilers can you offer up about issue #20 before it drops in May?

Jason Aaron: I think it kind of sums up my run-up to this point. It’s the big issue; it’s drawn by the two artists who’ve handled most of it in the art so far: Chris Bachalo, the main artist, and then Kevin Nowlan who’s drawn a few bits here and there. So the two of them together, I think they’re the perfect pairing for this series. It’s a story that goes to a lot of different places, kind of focuses on Stephen and the core group of supporting characters around him and like I said, sums up my run so far and kind of sets things up for the new writer Dennis Hopeless to [take on] these same characters and take them forward into some new and different stories.

Marvel.com: And going off that, can you say anything on where Doctor Strange will go from here? Is he gonna be making any cameo appearances in MIGHTY THOR?

Jason Aaron: Maybe. You never know. I really enjoyed writing that team-up issue of STRANGE where we saw Doctor Strange and Thor teaming up so yeah, I don’t think I’m done writing Doctor Strange in some capacity.

Marvel.com: Is there anything in particular that you hope readers have taken away from your run on the title?

Jason Aaron: Just, you know, don’t ever touch Doctor Strange’s refrigerator…

Join Jason Aaron, Chris Bachalo, and Kevin Nowlan for DOCTOR STRANGE #20 on May 17!

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Hear the first details of the next major step for the Marvel Universe!

Get ready for an exciting new initiative kicking off this fall across the entire Marvel Universe, Marvel Legacy! Featuring the most popular characters in the world and blockbuster new storylines, the House of Ideas returns long running titles to their original series numbering with a renewed sense of hope, wonder, enjoyment and fun. “We want fans to get fired up. Simple as that,” says Marvel’s Editor-In-Chief Axel Alonso. “Marvel Legacy will decide once and for all if the Marvel Universe is big enough for Miles and Peter, Riri and Tony, Thor and Jane Foster, Laura and, dare I say, Logan? Spoiler alert: It is.”

A new era of Marvel Comics kicks off in the fall with MARVEL LEGACY #1, a whopping 50-page one-shot stuffed with twists, surprises, mysteries and revelations, plus a special four-panel fold-out cover by Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada.

Superstar creators Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic reunite their THOR: GOD OF THUNDER pairing to set the stage for the next chapter of the Marvel Universe.

“This one-shot honors Marvel Comics’ past and it’s a good window into the present day Marvel Universe and then also sets the stage for where we’re gonna go in the future,” comments Aaron. “The main goal was just to be able to give this to someone who’s got no idea what’s going on in the Marvel right now and have that be a good entry point for them and I think it does that.”

As for the plot itself, “We get a peak into the very distant past here so we go back to the prehistoric days of the Marvel Universe,” he adds, offering up a few tantalizing teases. “[We are] seeing versions of Marvel’s biggest legacy characters and different versions we haven’t seen before and [an adventure] of, I guess I could call ‘the Prehistoric Avengers.’ That adventure will have major ramifications for the Marvel Universe going forward.”

Not enough epic foreshadowing for you? Alonso also promises “a last-page reveal that just might break the Internet” while editor Tom Brevoort assures of “the return of a central piece of the Marvel mythos that readers have been mourning in recent months.”

Marvel Legacy initiative spreads out across the Marvel Universe, showcasing epic storylines hearkening back to the glory days of Marvel starring Odinson, Squirrel Girl, Spider-Man, the Avengers, America Chavez, Iron Man, Moon Knight, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain Marvel, Luke Cage, the X-Men, Captain America, Ms. Marvel, Deadpool, the Champions, Wolverine, Ironheart, Hulk, The Punisher, and so many more!

“The biggest challenge was in fitting everything that we had into the story, while still actually having a story!” expounds Brevoort. “When we laid out our plans for this [story] at one of our editorial summits, our community of creators was energetic in offering up key elements of the stories they were planning, so much so that it’s an embarrassment of riches. It’s everything that makes Marvel great, exciting, fun and special in a single high-quality package. This is the Marvel that you remember, and the Marvel that you long for.”

But how do we define Marvel’s legacy?

“Marvel’s ‘legacy’ is its universe of amazing but always relatable characters—each and every one of them loved for their strengths and weaknesses,” relates Alonso. “MARVEL LEGACY will prove that yes, absence does make the heart grow fonder, and we love our iconic characters as much as you do.”

“Marvel’s legacy is exciting, dramatic heroic stories featuring human, relatable characters facing situations and struggles that find parallel in the lives of our readers—the world outside your window,” adds Brevoort.

“This one shot being called LEGACY is not a coincidence,” contends Aaron. “This book is very much about that legacy so we see how that legacy stretches back to the distant past and we follow those characters who carry on that legacy in the present and we set the stage for those characters and that legacy will go in the continuing stories to come.”

Beginning this fall, long-running Marvel Universe titles will revert to their classic legacy numbering, honoring and restoring their long history, as new and epic storylines launch under the Marvel Legacy banner. Featuring clean entry points for every series, titles resuming their original numbering will be clearly marked with special trade dress and cover treatments. And that’s just the beginning!

“We’re really setting out to knock you on your ass,” vows Brevoort, “To get you excited and nervous and eager for all sorts of incredible things we’ve got coming up across the Marvel Universe in the next year and beyond. Whether you’re a fan of the core characters or all of the amazing faces we’ve introduced over the past couple of years, whether you’ve been there every Wednesday or you drifted away from Marvel at some point in the past, Marvel Legacy is your easy-access gateway to the future, a shot glass of the Power Cosmic!”

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Enjoy the latest episode of the official Marvel podcast, with comics, movies, TV, games, and more!

Hello Marvelites! Channel your best Star-Lord and bust out your Walkmans because we’ve got a brand new episode of This Week in Marvel.

Alex joins Ben to take on this week’s comic releases including MONSTERS UNLEASHED, NICK FURY, and more! Plus news from the worlds of movies, TV, and games from Marc and Christine (49:38)! A chat with the SPIDER-MEN II editorial team (38:51)! A SECRET EMPIRE breakdown (1:03:00)! And last but not least, your questions and comments (1:33:34)!

We’re officially two weeks out from Marvel Studios’ “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”! If you’ve already watched our Red Carpet World Premiere five times over, hit play on your Walkmans and join Ryan and Ben next week for the next #TWIMURC where they talk GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning! Share your thoughts with us using the hashtag #TWIMURC!

Download episode #286 of This Week in Marvel from Marvel.com, check out Marvel Podcast Centralgrab the TWiM RSS feed and subscribe to This Week in Marvel on iTunes, so you never miss an episode! We are now also on Soundcloud! Head over now to our new hub to listen to the full run of This Week in Marvel!

This Week in Marvel will focus on delivering all the Marvel info on news and new releases–from comics to video games to toys to TV to film and beyond! New episodes will be released every Thursday (or so) and TWiM is co-hosted by Marvel VP & Executive Editor of Digital Media Ryan “Agent M” Penagos and Marvel Editorial Director of Digital Media Ben Morse, along with Marvel.com Editor Marc Strom, Marvel.com Assistant Editor Christine Dinh, and Manager of Video & Content Production Blake Garris. We also want your feedback, as well as questions for us to answer on future episodes!  Tweet your questions, comments and thoughts about TWiM to @AgentM@BenJMorse, @chrissypedia or @Marvel with the hashtag #ThisWeekinMarvel!

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Celebrate the super spy’s new series with a look at his first appearance!

Every Friday we use the powers of Marvel Unlimited to look back at the very first appearance of a major character, place or object that made waves this week.

He might share a name with one of the most infamous people in the Marvel Universe, but Nick Fury plans on making a reputation for himself with his self-titled series launched this week by writer James Robinson and artist ACO. The new book may have sent Fury to the French Riviera and put him in direct opposition to Frankie Noble, but his comic book roots go back to the 2012 series BATTLE SCARS.

Chris Yost, Matt Fraction and Cullen Bunn collaborated to write the six-issue BATTLE SCARS with art by Scot Eaton. The series, set during the Fear Itself event, kicked off in Afghanistan with the 2nd Battalion Army Rangers trying to figure out why everyone seemed to be shooting everyone else. Here we’re introduced to Staff Sergeant Marcus Johnson who winds up in Atlanta, Georgia four days later after getting word that his mother, Nia Marie Johnson, passed away. Just as he began to realize that someone specifically wanted his mother dead, he’s pinned down by sniper fire and attacked by a wetworks squad backed up by none other than Taskmaster. Luckily, Captain America and then-Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Daisy Johnson stepped in to help Marcus.

S.H.I.E.L.D. tried keeping him safe in their rebuilt headquarters, but Marcus broke out, took down an entire group of their agents, and started his own investigation into Taskmaster along with his Ranger pal “Cheese,” otherwise known as Phil Coulson! The search not only lead to another fight with Taskmaster, but a team-up with Deadpool against the Serpent Society and the revelation that a masked man calling himself Orion stood as Johnson’s true enemy.

Battle Scars (2011) #1

Battle Scars (2011) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?

Another masked man soon revealed himself not only as Nick Fury, but as Marcus’ father. The elder Fury met Nia Johnson when they both worked for the CIA 30 years prior. The two hit it off and nine months later Marcus entered the world. Nia quit that job and Fury worked his spy magic to keep her safe until recently when someone uncovered the information and sold it to Leviathan leader Orion. Fury messed Orion up pretty bad and the continually-dying villain wanted some of the Infinity Formula to fix his problem, but the only real source remained in Marcus’ blood.

Soon enough, both father and son wound up in Orion’s clutches. He had his goons cut out Marcus’ left eye to make a family resemblance. Orion then received a transfusion from Fury that restored his power and youth, but a presumed dead Marcus fought his way through Orion’s goons. Johnson stalled the villain long enough to get the Avengers there to back his play and save the day, seemingly killing Orion in the process. A few weeks later, Marcus shaved his head, joined his pal Coulson and became official Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. He also decided to take on his father’s name as a way to honor him and carry on a longstanding tradition with the organization.

Flash Forward

Nick Fury Jr. may have first appeared in the Marvel Universe as Marcus Johnson in BATTLE SCARS, but the idea for an African-American take on the character debuted back in 2002 when he showed up in THE ULTIMATES #1 by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch looking an awful lot like Samuel L. Jackson. A noted comic fan, Jackson appreciated the nod and, by the time the Fury character made his big screen debut in 2008’s “Iron Man,” Jackson filled in the eye patch and long coat!

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Charles Soule shares some intel on the major mutant milestone coming in July!

Ready to be astonished?!

This July, Charles Soule joins a series of the industry’s best artists as they prepare to unleash ASTONISHING X-MEN! Last month, we spoke with the writer about his upcoming work on the series relaunch after its four-year hiatus, and now we return to try and pry some extra details from him about what he and his collaborators have in store for not only readers but also this brand new configuration of the X-Men.

Marvel.com: Charles, last month the news broke that you’d be spearheading the re-launch of ASTONISHING X-MEN. From those early news releases, we learned you’d be taking readers to “all corners of the X-Men mythology” according to Editor-in-Chief, Axel Alonso. Can you shed a little light on what this means for both new and long-time fans of mutantkind?

Charles Soule: I don’t want to give away too much of the story yet, because ASTONISHING X-MEN is designed to work as a series of reveals. Every time you think you know what’s happening, the script gets flipped a bit, usually around the last page of each issue. It’s like a puzzle box: part of the fun is figuring it all out. That said the book does do a lot with what I think of as X-Men touchstones—significant events in the lore, characters new and old—but rarely the way you think. I call it “weaponized nostalgia.” It’s all explained and laid out, though. Even if you’ve never read an X-Men comic before, it’ll just work as a fun adventure.

Marvel.com: I understand you’re looking to make this book just as much of an “entry-point” title for newer readers as it will be a satisfying experience for long-time fans of these characters. How do you strike that balance between seemingly opposite readerships?

Charles Soule: Not easily! But really, it’s about making sure that (a) each character’s powers are clearly noted or explained when they first appear, (b) writing them like real people who act towards each other the way they should based on their respective histories, and (c) having “nostalgia” or “homage” bits work in and of themselves. Like, if you see someone look at a photo of another character and get sad, that works for someone who knows exactly why they’re sad, but also someone who doesn’t, if it’s written correctly. I’m spending a lot of time on this specific aspect of the book. I don’t think you should need a degree in X-Men-ology to enjoy X-Men comics, but I think having that degree should enhance your enjoyment.

Marvel.com: If we don’t talk about the art, then we’re not talking comics! And this particular series will be taking a rather unique approach to the visuals. Can you walk us through the genesis behind the choice to introduce a new artist with each issue and why you and Marvel as a whole felt this was the strongest way to tell the story you’ll be sharing in ASTONISHING X-MEN?

Charles Soule: Well, again, there’s a story conceit I don’t really want to spoil yet, but I think it will work really well, in part because Marvel is staffing the series with an incredible batch of artists. We start off with Jim Cheung and just go from there, all amazing—or…astonishing, even. I’m tailoring each script to each artist’s strengths, to the extent I can. It’s pretty exciting for me, sort of a high-wire act, to make sure each artist gets what they need to draw a great issue but the overarching story gets served as well. Again, not easy, but fun.

Marvel.com: Although this is a series that you’re structuring to appeal to both new and old readers, I understand you’re dipping deep into the archives of the X-Men’s rogues’ gallery in raising The Shadow King to the forefront as the initial “Big Bad,” and someone who fans could even credit as being the original inspiration for Xavier’s creation of the team.

What made him the right choice for you when it came to launching this new series?

Charles Soule: The Shadow King was the first “evil” mutant Charles Xavier ever encountered, and as we saw way back in UNCANNY X-MEN #117 in 1979, he’s essentially the reason Xavier decided to train up other mutants to fight emerging threats in the world. The nice thing about The Shadow King is that he resides in a place called the astral plane, which is sort of a dream dimension where anything anyone imagines can become real. So, battles there tend to be about willpower; the person who can impose their reality on their opponents, force them to believe in whatever situation they’re projecting onto them, tends to win. In ASTONISHING, we’ll see some fantastic set pieces built around that idea, some of which will tie into signature past events from X-Men history. It’s not all backwards-looking, though. This is a story that moves the X-Men forward in a huge way.

Marvel.com: Although you’ve certainly worked with your fair share of mutants in your time at Marvel, Charles, I believe your time with this particular group is more limited, no? What aspects of these characters made them the right ones to engage in this journey?

Charles Soule: That’s correct. Except for Mystique, I’ve never really written any of this group to any real degree, unless you count Old Man Logan and Wolverine as the same character; they’re not, although of course there are similarities. I like this cast because it gives me an immense amount to work with as far as their interpersonal relationships. Rogue and Gambit have a long history together, romantic and otherwise. Mystique raised Rogue for a while. Fantomex and Angel have both been linked with Psylocke. Old Man Logan probably killed all of these folks back in his own universe. And on and on it goes. The power set is varied, they’re all super cool in different ways—it’s a rich stew, and I feel like I can do a ton with it. I should also say that the eight characters on the cover of ASTONISHING X-MEN #1 are not the only X-Men that will appear in the series, but they’re definitely the leads.

Marvel.com: Before we wrap up, I want to lob one “fastball special” your way. There’s always a concern among comic book fans about consequences. With a new series launch, we expect a certain amount of bombast, but what sort of consequences have you baked into the story you’re preparing to launch? In what ways does this story not only matter, but why is it one that’s going to be a “must read” for X-Men fans of all kinds and varieties?

Charles Soule: I think that will all be made clear on the last page of ASTONISHING X-MEN #1. I think I’m known for writing a certain kind of X-book, after DEATH OF WOLVERINE, DEATH OF X and IVX. ASTONISHING X-MEN is no exception. If people want consequences, they’ll get ‘em.

Charles Soule and the top artistic talent in the comics industry bring you ASTONISHING X-MEN, beginning in July!

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Al Ewing reveals Steve Rogers’ plans for A.I.M. as Secret Empire dawns

In U.S.AVENGERS #6—available May 17—Steve Rogers continues his campaign to remake the Marvel Universe in Hydra’s image by finally seizing control of A.I.M. One cannot help but wonder, however, what’s motivating the Sentinel of Lies to pull this society of scientists under his wing.

Thankfully, we do not need to wonder when we have writer Al Ewing on the speed dial. He gladly gave us some perspective on Rogers’ dark plan.

Marvel.com: To begin with, why is A.I.M. such a glittering prize for Steve Rogers in specific and Hydra in general?

Al Ewing: Well, they’re not a glittering prize as such—although if he can sway any to his side, that’s fine—but they are a potential complication, and one with the potential to mess up his intricate plans. So ideally, he needs to get them out of the way, both by making sure they don’t interfere with his plan as it unfolds, and then after that, by making sure they don’t interfere with Hydra business.

Marvel.com: What threat would an independently operating A.I.M. represent for Rogers?

Al Ewing: Well, for one thing, they’ve been trained to resist hypnosis in a way S.H.I.E.L.D. hasn’t—thanks to the teachings of the late, great Professor X—so Rogers can’t just use his good friend Dr. Faustus to brainwash them. Which means he’s probably going to have to lock them up in some secret facility somewhere and work on them for a while. He can’t let a bunch of super-scientists run around free and unsupervised.

Marvel.com: How does he envision A.I.M. working after he fully seizes control of them? What is his ideal vision of them as an organization?

Al Ewing: I imagine if he can get the whole organization on board, he’ll put them to work somehow, most likely as an arm of Hydra.

To be honest, what Rogers probably wants from A.I.M. is for them to just get back in their safe little box and be “evil scientists” again so at least he can understand what’s going on with them. He’s an old man at heart, he likes things a certain way and why does he have to change?

Marvel.com: As Roberto da Costa struggles against and, seemingly, falls to Rogers’ agenda, what are his fears for A.I.M.? Where does he worry it might go under someone else’s direction that isn’t his?

Al Ewing: Well, Roberto’s going to have a lot to worry about himself. As people might have guessed from the solicits, he’s in some serious personal danger and he might not make it through this one alive. But assuming he does, I’d imagine his biggest nightmare for A.I.M. would be them slipping backwards into their old, evil ways, or being lured there by a charismatic creep like Rogers.

Marvel.com: U.S.AVENGERS, particularly with this issue, is a great mix of intense action and political machinations. How does Paco Medina’s art help to bring that to life on the page without either element eclipsing the other? Any particular sequence, without spoilers, you are really excited for fans to see him render?

Al Ewing: Paco’s brilliant and he draws an amazing Red Hulk, too. I’m going to particularly enjoy seeing him deal with the sequence set in Europe, since that’s going to feature some exciting guest stars—for anyone who knows his work, we’re bringing back a selection of the contestants from the CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS comic we did together. So fans of Guillotine, Outlaw, and Ares should hopefully be happy there. I know I will be.

See if Steve Rogers succeeds in U.S.AVENGERS #6, available May 17 courtesy of Al Ewing and Paco Medina!

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Artist Nelson Blake II talks the man, his clothes, and more!

It seems like a great time to be Luke Cage, so why’s he getting involved in a mysterious battle in New Orleans? The man who continues to mature as a leader, hero, parent, and husband, will find trouble in his past as seen in his self-titled May 17-debuting series.

Written by David F. Walker with Nelson Blake II on art, the one-time Power Man will head down to the Big Easy to find out what happened to Dr. Noah Burstein, the deceased doctor whose experiments turned Luke from a wrongly incarcerated inmate into a man with impenetrable skin. We talked with Blake about Luke’s past, his trip down South, and what makes him such an appealing character to draw.

Marvel.com: Luke Cage is in a great place right now between his new status as a media star and his various comic appearances. How does it feel to be drawing the character at this time?

Nelson Blake II: While I am a huge fan of the show, my excitement for the character really started with [writer Brian Michael Bendis’] take on him over the years. I read a ton of that stuff in DAREDEVIL, NEW AVENGERS, etc. He wrote Luke as a great leader, but also as a powerful hero and overall interesting guy. That kind of thing really gets my imagination going for a character, which is what really made me happy when [Marvel Editor-in-Chief] Axel [Alonso] and the crew offered me Cage.

Marvel.com: This is a character who had a very signature look back in the day, but has gone more modern as the years have gone on. How do you balance the classic with the new in that sense?

Nelson Blake II: From the classic era, I think there is a tone that is always present in Cage, but he’s definitely older and I enjoy that. Some characters get modernized, not because they actually grow, but because times have changed. Luke has actually matured as a man and his current look reflects that. It’s not often that a character can look at their own original incarnation and get that same feeling that we all get when we look at old pictures of ourselves, for the good and the embarrassing parts of all of it.

Marvel.com: In addition to his choice in clothes, Luke has also grown up a lot since his first appearance. He’s a father and husband now. Does that change how he carries himself in your mind? 

Nelson Blake II: Absolutely. One of the most important parts of adulthood is learning that your actions affect others and you’re responsible for that. As much as any character in comics, this resonates with Luke. Even down to the nature of his powers, being bulletproof. While he is quite strong, his signature ability is defensive and protective and that becomes a metaphor for his personality.

Marvel.com: It sounds like Luke will be looking into his own past as well as that of Dr. Burstein. How is it peering back into that world?

Nelson Blake II: Luke revisiting his own past is very personal and challenging for the character. I can’t reveal too much, as Luke’s interactions with his origin and Burstein’s role in it are all key moments in the story. It’s a great take by David and the editorial crew that makes the events matter to Luke, as opposed to a villain-of-the-week approach.

Marvel.com: What can you say about the tone you’re working with in the series? Will this be a street level book mixed with some super hero elements or something else altogether?

Nelson Blake II: It’s got a crossover with crime, noir, sci-fi, and straight-up comics stuff. I’m a big fan of dynamic contrast, so I like going from a scene that’s totally still and could be shot with an ABC camera setup, then pushing things to a level that’s comics only, in your face and over the top. That’s reflective of my influences from novels and Michael Mann movies all the way to animation and manga. That’s the fun of comics, being able to bring all those things into one place and hold them together with an art style and pace that doesn’t sacrifice drama for action, or vice versa.

Marvel.com: This first arc takes place in New Orleans. Do you enjoy diving into that kind of real world setting while also mixing in some of the more Marvel Universe elements?

Nelson Blake II: I’m a New Yorker, so the New Orleans research has been a really fun departure from my own experience. The architecture, weather, and culture dictate a feel and tell of history that’s another world compared to Luke’s more common NYC/Harlem roots. It also serves well to isolate him from the comfort of his fellow heroes, which is a great place to start in a solo title.

Marvel.com: David guided Luke’s adventures in the previous series with Iron Fist. How is it working with him on this character he’s become even more familiar with?

Nelson Blake II: The first thing that struck me is how much David cares. He infuses Luke with a dignity and personal approach without skimping on the fun comic book elements. Dave is also somewhat of a comics historian and that comes through in a lot of his staging and sequencing. His vision is rooted in comics tradition without being trapped by it, and his experience with other great artists makes telling his stories really easy. Talking to him about the scripts and the characters gives me a lot to work with, because he has thought through the drama and characterization, and you can just tell that each issue is a film in his head. This makes sense, as David has a history as a filmmaker. It’s been a joy so far and I hope he’s having as much fun as I am. The whole team is great to work with, from editorial to colors.

LUKE CAGE #1 by David F. Walker and Nelson Blake II bursts on sale on May 17!

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Alongside the Illuminati, T’Challa does all he can to halt the final incursion!

For 50 years, the Black Panther has stood at the forefront on the Marvel Universe. As we count down to a vision of T’Challa on the big screen coming soon, take a look back at five decades’ worth of comic book adventures…

Caught up in the impending incursions of entire universes with his own, The Black Panther and his fellow Illuminati clashed with Captain America in Spain in AVENGERS #39, but discovered it to be trap. Faced with multiple teams of Avengers, T’Challa and his comrades tried to fight their way out of the noose in NEW AVENGERS #28 until stopped by Sue Richards.

The Panther explained to all assembled in NEW AVENGERS #29 that the final incursion drew nearer and the Illuminati felt stymied to stop it. Just then, Hank Pym appeared and in NEW AVENGERS #30 related his tale of discovering a group of near-omnipotent beings called the Beyonders stood behind the incursions. Together with Black Bolt of the Inhumans, T’Challa confronted Namor in AVENGERS #41 and believed he and his villainous Cabal perished.

The Black Panther and the Illuminati began to construct a lifeboat in AVENGERS #42, a way to save individuals to rebuild after the final incursion. The Galactic Council arrived at Earth in AVENGERS #43, announcing their intention to destroy the planet and halt the incursion. T’Challa met with the President of the United States in AVENGERS #44 to tell him that the Earth would be gone in six hours.

Reed Richards and the Panther piloted the lifeboat with their assembled braintrust aboard in SECRET WARS #1, but when they headed toward the point of collision between universes, a breach occurred that tore the craft in two. The mask of Doctor Doom appeared for a moment before them, but in an explosion of light they lost consciousness.

T’Challa awoke from stasis in SECRET WARS #3 to hear his old friend Doctor Strange explain that he and others slumbered for eight years and that Doom now ruled the world as its god-king. In SECRET WARS #4, Strange took the Panther to a battle between Doom and the Cabal, but when things turned sour, the magician teleported everyone away to save them from the god-king’s wrath.

The Panther and his old rival Namor found themselves in a land called Egyptia in SECRET WARS #5, but in SECRET WARS #6 they traveled to another area of Doom’s world to uncover a cache of powerful artifacts—including an Infinity Gauntlet—hidden from Doom by Doctor Strange.

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The former problem student prepares for his next step!

Quintavius “Quentin” Quire is a male who presents as being in his late adolescence and in healthy physical shape. He is a self-identified mutant with ties to the mutant rights group the X-Men. Although he is mostly known by his given name, he has also been called “Kid Omega.”

The client was dropped off at the office by Thor with her ordering our staff, “You talk to him!” It should be noted that this is not the ideal start of a therapeutic sentence. However, Quire and this writer have a pre-existing relationship and he seemed to agree to a session without coercion so I did sit with the client.

When we last worked together, the client was a student at the Jean Grey Institute. In the time since, he has graduated, joined the X-Men, quit the X-Men out of conflicts with Wolverine, joined the Hellfire Club and seized control of it as the White King, and then quit that as well, going into isolation.

Despite all these changes, Quire presents in much the same way as when we first worked together. He recycled his lines about his distaste for psychology and psychologists, talking therapy, and his assertion that what I practice is “junk science.”

However, when the therapist began to dig into the series of rapid changes the client had recently experienced, his affect changed and it became clear that he was struggling to maintain his typical presentation.

Somewhat begrudgingly he disclosed the boredom that characterized his time with the Hellfire Club which left him confused and agitated. He had always felt he deserved power and leadership and when he gained it he found it rather empty and unfulfilling.

We also explored his complex feelings towards Wolverine, someone he characterized as an individual who only sought to make Quire act his worst just so he could say to the client, “See? Look how bad you are.”

Finally, he confessed he had gained some knowledge—although he was very vague about how or what—of his own death and the experience had shaken him. The therapist’s attempts to dig deeper only resulted in the client becoming more disconnected and dismissive of the session.

Therefore, I moved away from a past focus to a present orientation. The client briefly explained that Thor had been attempting to convince him to help with a re-emergent Phoenix Force. The client presented with anger and bluster at this point. He insisted on his independence and that he would not answer to anyone or follow orders from anyone, not even the “so-called God of Thunder herself.” While the client allowed that, yes, the Phoenix Force would be the biggest challenge he had ever faced and yes, he was aware what it had done, at various times, to Jean Grey and Emma Frost, he refused to admit to or even acknowledge the possibility he had any fears about it.

Abandoning the attempts to get the client to open up and knowing from previous experience he was rarely moved by the needs of others, this writer finally appealed to the client’s sense of self-preservation, arguing that if he faced Phoenix he may be hurt or killed but if he failed to, he’d make enemies of gods and likely would only be delaying an inevitable death by Phoenix, one that he would be less prepared for than this face off.

Given the rather resistant nature of the client, this writer is referring the client to Doctors Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman who have more experience with working with “wielders and victims of the Phoenix Force.” Their follow-up sessions will occur on April 26 and May 17. Session notes can be found in file MIGHTY THOR #18 and MIGHTY THOR #19

Psy D. Candidate Tim Stevens is a Staff Therapist who will never grow tired of people telling him psychology is not real science.

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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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