Garth Ennis & Goran Parlov reunite for a new look at Frank's early days!

Get ready to paint it black with Garth Ennis and Goran Parlov’s long-awaited PUNISHER: THE PLATOON limited series, which will take us back to a pre-Punisher era this October. PLATOON takes place during the Vietnam War in the late 1960s when Frank Castle was just an innocent doe-eyed soldier…though he was never that innocent according to Ennis and Parlov, the duo behind PUNISHER MAX who are writing the story and drawing the art, respectively.

Speaking of, you could not find two more passionate guys for the job; they’re committed to accurately nailing the time period while also delivering an epic and detailed story filled with colorful characters. So, does Mr. Castle love the smell of napalm in the morning? What ‘Nam-related movies did the duo watch before tackling this project? Queue up some CCR and read our in-depth interview with Garth Ennis and Goran Parlov as they prepare us for a run in the jungle…

Marvel.com: So, guys, the hype for this comic series goes back to 2015 at least. What’s it like to finally see it come to fruition?

Garth Ennis: All the pages are in and no one got killed or tortured. So that’s not bad.

Goran Parlov: I just cannot wait to see it out. [I’m] thrilled people can finally read it soon. So much sweat over those pages, so many all-nighters…Yeah, I can’t be happier than I am now.

Marvel.com: You two have worked on Punisher books before. What do you each admire in one another when it comes to bringing Frank Castle to the page?

Garth Ennis: For me Goran is pretty close to being the definitive Punisher artist. He captures Frank’s essential character in his body language: The easy grace, the repressed violence, the lack of drama. The sense of a man just getting on with the job.

Goran Parlov: You can’t say that something or someone is perfect. It is more like a utopic value. But Garth, as a writer, is very close to it. He understands the storytelling, he knows what works in a comic sequence and what doesn’t, what is important and what is superfluous. He can explain himself perfectly with just [a] few words. The scripts are never over explanatory. There are no page-long explanations for a single panel. Short and concise, but everything is there in just [a] few lines. I like to think I can connect very easily with his scripts. [The] stories themselves are always top notch–sometimes funny, sometimes a pure horror, but never boring, and always involving. Matter of fact, I often find myself laughing while drawing, and I can’t help it. Which is good. Means that the thing works. If I am the first to laugh then everybody else will also. On the other side, there were some sequences that I really wanted somebody else [to draw] for me. Talk about “real horror” sequences. With Garth you always get the whole package, and I am addicted to it, to the point that I have problems with other writers. Because I am always looking for Garth in the scripts. Which brings me to a conclusion and to the very essence of your question: Working with Garth for me is very easy.

Marvel.com: This series will focus on Frank’s time in Vietnam, and I can already hear “Fortunate Son” playing in the background. How are you guys capturing the feel of that era as well as the utter grittiness and destruction of this war?

 Garth Ennis: The story is set during the Tet offensive of 1968, with Frank’s first battlefield command–an understrength platoon of US Marines–involved in the defense of Khe Sanh, the famous Marine base which was subjected to quite an arduous siege by the North Vietnamese Army. This is a look at the war from the point of view of the average grunt, who finds himself at the center of a maelstrom of unimaginable destruction. The U.S. expended vast reserves of firepower to hold the base, but somehow the matter is still decided in close combat, often hand-to-hand, with the Marines risking life and sanity to survive. At the same time, we’ll see Colonel Letrong Giap–from FURY: MY WAR GONE BY–whose NVA unit is one of those charged with taking Khe Sanh, as he struggles to carry out the often impossible orders he’s been given by the regime in Hanoi. With him is one Ly Quang, a young Viet Cong fighter with an agenda all her own after she comes off worse in an early encounter with Frank.

Goran Parlov: Well, this might sound strange, but I didn’t prepare myself by watching all those famous Vietnam movies. I just remembered them–I watched them while working on FURY: MY WAR GONE BY and previous Punisher books. I wanted to capture the sensation as I remembered it. Of course I had several screenshots and photos from the internet, but those were mostly for weapons, uniforms, machinery. I love to be pretty accurate about those. But the overall feel was completely from within my head. 

Marvel.com: In addition, were you influenced by any Vietnam War-related movies, comics, or other similar pieces of pop culture when putting this together?

Garth Ennis: My go-to reading on Vietnam would be “Nam” by Mark Baker, “If I Die in a Combat Zone” and “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, “A Bright Shining Lie” by Neil Sheehan, “A Rumor of War” by Philip Caputo, and “Rolling Thunder in a Gentle Land” edited by Andrew Wiest. The conflict hasn’t been particularly well served by comics; the only two that come to mind are Marvel’s THE NAM–the first couple of years’ worth–and Fighting Man by Alan Hebden and Cam Kennedy, which I recently managed to get reprinted in the Battle Classics series. For movies, I like “Apocalypse Now,” as much for the lunacy of it as anything else, and a curious little flick called “84 Charlie MoPic.” My favorite Vietnam War film is still “Full Metal Jacket,” partly because it’s so good, partly because I believe a peculiar war deserves a peculiar movie.

Goran Parlov: I was at the middle of the book, three or four episodes behind me, when I decided to watch Oliver Stone’s “Platoon.” It completely confused me. I was all like, “Oh my god, this thing is made this way and not like I did it. That other thing is also different.’ I found a billion things that are not like in my pages…and that blocked me completely. [I was] totally confused. Should I re-draw all those things? Should I start all over from the beginning? Then I talked shortly with Garth about that. He didn’t understand what exactly I thought I did wrong. Well, his question put me back at ease, but deep inside I still felt a bit frustrated. Fortunately, the scenery changed completely in the next few issues and I was able to put all the things that I’ve seen and loved in “Platoon.” My frustration disappeared and no harm has been done to the previous pages. Actually, later on I was very happy with how the things merged together with positive results.

Marvel.com: In your own words, how would you describe this Frank Castle compared the one we know in pop culture? Put another way, will readers be surprised at this facet of Frank?

Garth Ennis: As I say, this is Frank’s first combat command, and in fact his first time in battle. Not even 20, he’s been entrusted with the lives of two dozen young Marines whose abiding motivating factor is the desire to survive their tours of duty, go home, and never look back. He’s been plunged straight into the unspeakable hell of close quarter combat, and expected not just to survive but to lead- and to win.  Now, that may seem like an insurmountable task, but I personally believe that Frank was never really particularly green or raw, never some blushing virgin. I think he hit the ground running–partly because he grew up with a certain degree of street smarts and was therefore possessed of strong survival instincts from the get-go, and partly because of whatever was waiting inside him, something that began to awaken as soon as he arrived in Vietnam. Frank has the enviable ability to watch, learn, and act fast–so even before the bullets started flying he at least had a pretty good idea what not to do.

Goran Parlov: I think there will be no surprises. Speaking about his character features, he is the same Frank Castle as we know in PUNISHER MAX, only younger and in a different environment. But I am sure readers will recognize Frank right away under that helmet.

Marvel.com: Going off that, can you talk a little bit about the psychological trauma he’ll be going through in this series and how it will impact his transformation into Punisher?

Goran Parlov: I could find a word or two about the argument, but I’d prefer to leave this question to Garth.

Garth Ennis: Once Second-Lieutenant Castle begins to reveal himself as a first-class problem-solver, certain figures within the military establishment will start keeping an eye on him, only too keen to exploit his particular skill set. So the events in THE PLATOON will at least start him down the road he’s on. Of course, this is only his first tour of duty, and the events of BORN happen during his third, so he has a long way to go on his journey to Firebase Valley Forge. I’ve hinted at some of the things he got up to on his second tour before, and maybe one day soon I’ll get a chance to go into more detail on them.

Marvel.com: What can you tell us about the supporting characters in this story and the way in which they affect Frank’s journey? 

Garth Ennis: There’s the aforementioned LeTrong Giap, who initially has too much of an eye on the big picture to worry about some young American officer. There’s also Ly, who wants to kill our hero with all her heart–and then dig him up and kill him again. [Then] there are the men of his platoon, initially wary of their new commander, but who gradually come to see him as their best and possibly only chance of survival as the war sucks them in deeper and deeper, and the horrors of ‘Nam close in around them. Speaking of BORN, you might say that in some ways THE PLATOON is the opposite of that story. It is, perhaps, a look at what might have been for Frank Castle.

Goran Parlov: Reading the story you can barely tell who the protagonist is and who the supporting characters are. They are all important for the story and all together meritorious for the magic. Back when I put my first sketches down on the paper, I thought of them [as if each] one of them is about to have a spinoff eventually. What I want to say is I always try to fall in love with each character and to love ‘em all the way. To personalize them, to give ‘em specific character…in a few words, to give them life. That is, [in] my opinion, how they eventually become interesting characters to me and ultimately to the readers. That is why I love Garth’s scripts because I can easily fall in love with his characters.

Pick up PUNISHER: THE PLATOON #1 in October!

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Writer Al Ewing leads the team on a Marvel Legacy search for a lost comrade!

Sam Guthrie died. Everyone saw it. Everyone knows it.

Except…what if he didn’t?

On October 25, A.I.M. finds itself pondering that very question at the start of U.S.AVENGERS #11! Marvel Legacy dawns as writer Al Ewing and artist Paco Diaz assemble the team to find Cannonball on the vaguely nostalgic—yet wholly original—planet on which he finds himself.

We spoke with Ewing to see where the team has been, where they go now, and why Richie Redwood should not be messed with.

Marvel.com: How do we find the U.S.Avengers in the wake of Secret Empire’s upheaval?

Al Ewing: Well, in the wake of the Hydra takeover of the country, the U.S.Avengers feel badly damaged—Red Hulk’s developed some serious health problems after being ‘hacked’ by Hydra science, Dr. Toni Ho has given up her role as The Iron Patriot, and Cannonball has gone missing…and presumed dead. Meanwhile, S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t possess the power it once did, and that’s left A.I.M.’s status as a S.H.I.E.L.D. affiliate up in the air—which in turn led to unscrupulous government scumbag Kevin Krask making a play to become the power behind the scenes.

Roberto headed him off by giving up his Supreme Leader status—passing the leadership of A.I.M. to Toni—but that’s made him some powerful enemies and left A.I.M. and the U.S.Avengers adrift in the super spy community. And that’s when Smasher, the Shi’ar Superguardian—and Cannonball’s other half—dropped the bombshell that Sam Guthrie may not be dead after all.

Marvel.com: Issue #10 reveals that, despite everything, Cannonball remains alive. How does this affect each member of the team?

Al Ewing: This won’t be quite the last mission for the U.S.Avengers, but it does feel like it. Roberto, obviously, would travel to the ends of the universe—literally—to rescue Sam, and he won’t let anything like, say, giant 1920s gangster robots stand in his way.

But he won’t be the only one going along for this particular rescue mission; the whole team has a bond of friendship with Sam. Even the General, who reveals himself as the big softy we always suspected he was—and also reveals himself as someone who might be addicted to the power of becoming a Red Hulk, even if every transformation puts more strain on his increasingly damaged body.

Meanwhile, the search for Sam will be Toni’s first mission as head of A.I.M.—and she leads by example—but without the Iron Patriot armor, what does she bring to the table? We’ll find out.

Marvel.com: And what about Sam? How’s he doing lost out there in the big universe?

Al Ewing: Sam has no idea what’s going on, at first. Oddly, he feels fully at home in the alien worlds of outer space; it’s the strangely Earth-like atmosphere of Glenbrook that confuses him. He’s got enough of the old super hero instincts to investigate for a while. At the same time, he has a home and a family he needs to get back to; he only has so much patience for this nonsense. But when he decides to take his leave, will Glenbrook let him go?

Marvel.com: What can you tell readers about Glenbrook, U.S.A.?

Al Ewing: You’ve never seen anywhere like Glenbrook, U.S.A.! You’ve never seen any typical teenager like Ritchie Redwood, or his love interests Becky and Vanessa, or rival Gerry Mays, or his teacher Mr. Waspwind. Or Bugface Brown, who we don’t like to talk about any more, after…what happened.

Bugface Brown acted as a dangerous subversive, you see, and he had to be dealt with. All the filthy subversives must be dealt with. But let’s not talk about that, ha ha! Because talking about that would break character. And if you break character, Ritchie Redwood gets annoyed.

You don’t want that.

Marvel.com: How did Paco Diaz help to realize Glenbrook? Any further homages beyond the excellent cover by David Nakayama?

Al Ewing: Paco Diaz has a wonderfully lush line that looks great for the perfect ‘50s/’60s world of Glenbrook and for the outer-space craziness of the Shi’ar. I’m particularly fond of his command of expression—he’s got a great way with faces, and always nails the emotional beats. I’m also a big fan of his Roberto; Paco adds an extra dollop of suave sophistication to A.I.M.’s ex-leader that I always dig.

And yes, we can expect homages—and not just to classic teenage comics either. Fans of the X-Men will get some interesting surprises in these pages.

Marvel.com: What can fans expect from the team going forward? How does the team adapt to a new world after their Secret Empire experience?

Al Ewing: In some ways, we’re coming out of a rough patch into a brief burst of wild and wooly hilarity, a final fun-times adventure before…well, that would be telling.

But the Marvel Universe won’t give the U.S.Avengers much time to adjust to their new status quo. They’re going into the crucible, and they’re going to prove themselves once and for all—even if they end up with a memorial statue for their troubles. We’re coming up to the ultimate do-or-die battle, a fight for the fate of the entire world…and there’ll be no surrender.

Al Ewing and artist Paco Diaz’s U.S.AVENGERS #11 hits shelves on October 25!

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Artist Mike Mayhew explores the Star Wars galaxy in Storms of Crait!

Veteran Star Wars artist Mike Mayhew returns to illustrate the fight between good and evil in STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI – STORMS OF CRAIT, a special story that ties into both the new film “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” and the classic Rebellion era of the original film trilogy. We spoke with him about illustrating classic characters, populating a new world, and much more.

Marvel.com: Mike, this is not only a new Star Wars book, but one that connects with the new film this December—how’s it feel to be involved?

Mike Mayhew: I couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity! I’ve done some really awesome Star Wars jobs. I’ve drawn George Lucas’ own words for the seven-issue adaptation of “The Star Wars” that tells the proto-version of what we all know as “Episode IV,” and had early versions of many things from all the future movies. I’ve also drawn Obi-Wan’s adventures on Tatooine with young Luke, which is something I’d always wondered about and never dreamed I’d get to work on. And, recently I got to do a nice run of covers for the main STAR WARS title and got to play with so many of the Star Wars icons like Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, R2, a Hutt, Stormtroopers, Lando, etc.

But, STORMS OF CRAIT is maybe the most unique opportunity. To have a story that comes out in conjunction with a brand new Star Wars movie, which is a pretty rare occasion, that tells a story connected to the movie, but featuring the original cast?  That is a very cool thing to have to wrap your mind around.

Marvel.com: What’s exciting for you to be able to illustrate Luke and Leia at this point in their histories as young Rebels?

Mike Mayhew: Well, for me this is the timeline in Star Wars that I think gets the most people excited. These are the main, original characters in their absolute prime. They still are young, full of energy and excitement, and out to change the universe for the better. For a 48-year-old guy like me who used to play with action figures of these characters when he was eight-years-old, it’s like coming to work and re-living those same fantasies and flights of imagination I had playing with those toys. Again, it’s something I never dreamed I would get to do, especially way back then.

Marvel.com: As you learned about the planet Crait, what really struck you about the environment there as something you couldn’t wait to lay down visually?

Mike Mayhew: Crait is pretty straightforward on the surface: flat, desolate—a lot like Tatooine.  But under the surface is this strange, alien red rock. We get to explore that in the Mines of Crait.  It’s a really cool visual I haven’t seen before, so it’s what I think is appealing about a lot of designs in Star Wars—familiar, yet with a new twist.

Marvel.com: Will we get to see some new Mayhew Star Wars designs on ships, creatures, etc.?

Mike Mayhew: A couple. There is a new character that intrigues me named Trusk Berinato that our heroes encounter. My favorite characters in Star Wars have a duality, the ones you aren’t sure whether they are good guys or bad guys. Trusk is like that a bit. He reminds me of Lando, or Valorum the Sith Lord from my work on THE STAR WARS.

Marvel.com: What’s he like visually?

Mike Mayhew: I envision him a little like Bruce Dern from the 1970s mixed with a little Matthew McConaughey. I hope he keeps readers on their toes as to whose side he is on; the Rebels, the Empire, or is he out for himself? He has some droids that work in the Mines of Crait that I designed that borrow a bit from the pit droids from the prequels. And there are is some farming equipment I designed that the characters use.

And, though I didn’t design them, we get to have a lot of fun with the new Ski Speeders that have been seen in the “Last Jedi” trailer. I even got the very awesome new Hasbro toy of it just to see how it looked all-around!

Marvel.com: What about for our heroes? Will there be new looks?

Mike Mayhew: I did design a new costume for Leia. I think she always looks best in all white, and I have her in a new action-type costume. And, it has a hood which feels very “Episode IV” to me.

Join the adventure with STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI – STORMS OF CRAIT, coming later this year!

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Terry Moore and Takeshi Miyazawa pit the kids against a new kind of zombie.

Before Rainbow Rowell and Kris Anka’s RUNAWAYS launches in September, take a look at all of their major adventures as seen on Marvel Unlimited!

Looking past the whole thing where their parents turned out to be crazy murderous super villains, the gang seemed like they had a pretty good handle on their lives in RUNAWAYS #79. Chase got a job that he actually liked while the rest of the gang got to hang out in Malibu. That is until the plastic surgery zombies hit thanks to Terry Moore and Takeshi Miyazawa!

Last week we mentioned that Chase’s gig as a shock jock’s assistant would probably lead right into this particular adventure and that’s how it went down. Vic Rhymin met with a local wizard dubbed Mother and they hatched a plan to turn everyone who had plastic surgery in the L.A. area into a living zombie! 

Runaways (2008) #7

Runaways (2008) #7

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Nico, Molly, Karolina, Chase, Victor and Klara literally drove into this kind of madness after spending a night camping out in the desert. While confronting a horde of these strange creatures, Nico let loose with a spell that got turned around and, instead of stopping the attack, literally brought a group of monsters into one giant amalgamation. 

Runaways (2008) #8

Runaways (2008) #8

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After finally figuring out how to separate the individuals, the kids took off to find Val and stop all this madness. Their first stop, the radio station, proved less than helpful so they then traveled to the midnight concert where Val had ordered the zombies to bring him riches!

Once Val took the stage, the kids leapt into action with Nico facing off against Mother, who used to work with her parents from time to time. Mother thought he got the jump on the young woman and took the Staff of One, but a dinosaur erupted from it and ate him. Meanwhile, Chase found the mobile radio truck and played the song backwards to get everyone to return to normal! 

Runaways (2008) #9

Runaways (2008) #9

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LOST & FOUND

RUNAWAYS #10 featured a different format with a pair of stories. The first, by Chris Yost and Sara Pichelli, saw Molly responding to Cyclops’s call back during the Manifest Destiny era when the mutants set up shop in San Francisco. While she took a tour of the facility guided by Wolverine, her teammates met the New X-Men. Instead of throwing down, they all went to a club and had a great time. Well, not Molly and Wolverine, they fought one of her parents’ old enemies and had to face some serious truths about her folks.

James Asmus and Emma Rios also created a story where the kids played Truth or Dare that resulted in them battling a giant snake monster accidentally conjured up by Nico.

Close out this volume of Runaways with the new creative team of Kathryn Immonen and Sara Pichelli.

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Greg Pak on Weapon X's history and new threats to come.

Since its inception, the new WEAPON X title’s been cutting a bloody swath through a few of the darker corners of the Marvel Universe. Luckily, it boasts veteran comics scribe Greg Pak at its helm to guide it not only into the future, but to keep it grounded in the rich history of its characters and concepts.

We spoke to Greg about what’s to come in WEAPON X, as the book enters the Marvel Legacy era.

Marvel.com: Greg, as a Marvel writer, what does the word legacy mean to you personally? How much of it informs what you do on your books and most especially this one?

Greg Pak: From the time I first started writing for Marvel thirteen years ago, I’ve tried to approach each new project involving legacy characters with a mix of awe and fearlessness. Awe, because these are tremendous characters that have survived and thrived for decades and mean so much to their fans. And fearlessness, because in order to tell new stories that anyone gives a damn about, I have to dive into the thick of it, figure out what fresh take I bring to the table, take big risks, and try to tell a story that matters.

In practical terms, that means I’m always trying to get to the core of the character, trying to figure out the essence of what makes that character work. And at the same time, I’m trying to come up with new circumstances and angles and themes to take the character somewhere exciting. So legacy to me means respecting the origins, core, and history of the character—and striving to build on it to tell new stories that fans can dig their teeth into.

Weapon X (2017) #9

Weapon X (2017) #9

  • Published: October 11, 2017

Marvel.com: Within the narrative itself, is there a sense of legacy at the Weapon X program? What weight does history carry there?

Greg Pak: The Weapon X program’s legacy is a history of horror, vivisection, zealotry, and sadism. It’s also an institution that’s changed hands a number of times as different villains have taken charge. So I don’t think within the actual Weapon X program there’s much of a sense of company pride, so to speak. Each new director is just using the tools and resources of the program to further his or her own ends.

What I’m saying is, these aren’t very good people!

On the other hand, among the victims and subjects of the Weapon X program, there can be a shared allegiance based on their similar experiences. At the end of our last arc, Logan’s team in the WEAPON X book defeated Stryker’s Weapon X program—and then took the Weapon X name for themselves. So that’s a kind of new legacy they’re claiming.

Marvel.com: Likewise with our heroes: how do Logan and Sabretooth view the concept of legacy? And then Warpath and Domino—what about them?

Greg Pak: Logan and Sabretooth are two of the oldest mutants running around out there, and probably the oldest memory they share is their mutual hatred of each other. So maybe you could say that their sense of legacy on this team is tied up with this eternal conflict they share—which maybe means they both know they’re destined to tear each other apart some day again. But I don’t know if they really think in terms of “legacy” at all. They’ve both seen hundreds of friends and enemies die; they’re each nearly immortal and nearly unkillable. They’re haunted by their pasts, but I think that for their own sanity, they mostly live moment-to-moment, with Logan just trying to do the right thing through whatever means necessary at any given moment and Sabretooth just doing whatever feels good at any given moment.

Similarly, I don’t know if legacy means a ton to Domino, either. She’s got her own weird and tragic past, but she’s made a life for herself as a happy-go-lucky merc. She’s generally going to stick up for the underdog when push comes to shove, but she doesn’t have a grand plan of legacy building or anything like that. That’s one of the things that makes her interesting in the team, of course—she’s unpredictable, like most of the team’s members, which is key to the ongoing tension and drama in the group.

Warpath is a bit different, though. I think he’s very conscious of family and history—his most traumatic life experience was the murder of most of his family in Camp Verde. I think he feels a huge amount of responsibility to his family and tribe and to his extended family of mutants. At some point that bigger sense of responsibility and legacy will probably put him into conflict with other members of the team.

Marvel.com: Now, as a non-mutant, what holds Lady Deathstrike together with our leads? What’s her prime motivation in the book?

Greg Pak: Lady Deathstrike suffered similar mutilations and experimentation as Logan and Sabretooth and she was an early victim of Stryker’s new Weapon X, so when it came time to take him on, she was happy to team up with everyone else. She’s continued to stick with the team as they’ve taken on new challenges, but it’s an open question how long she’ll stay with the team or exactly what her true motivations are. Let’s not forget, it wasn’t too long ago that she was a straight-up villain and one of Wolverine’s and Domino’s worst enemies.

Marvel.com: Indeed. So, beyond all that, what getting you most jazzed about this book as you move forward?

Greg Pak: In our next storyline, we’re diving into the incredible mythology of Nuke, the patriotic superhero first introduced by Miller and Mazzucchelli in DAREDEVIL: BORN AGAIN. DAREDEVIL: BORN AGAIN was one of three or four books that pulled me back into comics when I was in college. It’s just phenomenally good storytelling and Nuke is such a tremendous character, so this new arc is a dream-come-true. The icing on the cake is that the great Yildiray Cinar is drawing, and he’s just a total pleasure to work with. Can’t wait ’til we can show it to you!

 Marvel.com: Any hints at something specifically cool coming up? Some more big surprises?

Greg Pak: A big turning point in all of our characters’ relationships within the team is coming, and with big, big repercussions. Keep on reading!

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Jack Kirby helps bring the God of Thunder down to Earth!

1917 to 2017: 100 years of Kirby.

Join us to celebrate Jack “King” Kirby’s 100th birthday by learning about the characters and stories he created that changed comics forever. To commemorate Jack’s centennial, we’ve sat down with the modern-day creators he influenced—and the decades of work he gifted us all.

We all know that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby changed the world when FANTASTIC FOUR #1 debuted in 1961 by kick starting the Silver Age of super hero comics. However, the full shift back to costumed gladiators didn’t come right away. When Thor debuted the next year, Kirby had, as usual, a number of books out that month including three horror anthologies and a RAWHIDE KID! No offense to STRANGE TALES #99 or TALES TO ASTONISH #34, but it’s pretty easy to see that JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #83 stands as Jack’s most important comic that month!

“The King” had been contributing stories, mostly of the monstrous variety written by Lee, to JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY since 1959’s issue #52 and would stick around through to that series’ completion and on into the THOR ongoing that launched with #126.

Back to that first appearance, though, Stan and Jack started with a near-splash page of this new character wielding his hammer and claiming immortality before jumping back and showing Dr. Donald Blake vacationing in Norway. Unbeknownst to anyone, a group of aliens seemingly made out of stone landed nearby, witnessed only by a fisherman whom no one believed. No one except Blake who overheard the story and investigated the next day. To his surprise, the fisherman’s story proved a reality! He would have snuck away, but he stepped on a snapping stick and made a break for it, hiding in a nearby cave.

Journey Into Mystery (1952) #83

Journey Into Mystery (1952) #83

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Before long, Blake witnessed the opening of a huge stone door and decided to scope out the newly opened room. Inside he discovered a stick that he used to move another obstructing rock. When it didn’t budge, Don slammed the boulder with the stick. A flurry of lightning zapped the meek doctor, seemingly disintegrating the man, but instead turning him into Thor!

Shocked to find himself transformed, Blake looked down to read the inscription on the mystic hammer: “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of…Thor.” With that, he easily freed himself from the cave and discovered some of the intricacies of his new abilities like how letting go of the hammer for a time resulted in him turning back into his mortal form. He then threw the mighty mallet and saw it return to him. He even brought about a huge thunderstorm with the yet-to-be-named Mjolnir!

While Blake played around, the Stone Men continued their plans for taking over the Earth, which partially revolved around projecting images of giant dragons into the sky to confuse approaching jet fighters. Witnessing the destruction caused when the planes hit a force field, Thor flew into action and easily bested the Stone Men at every turn, using his hammer to take out their weapons and even destroying their Mechano-Monster with a swing of Mjolnir!

Seeing that Earth played home to denizens such as Thor, the Stone Men retreated, hopped back in their spaceships and took off for other planets to conquer more easily. Not wanting to become an “international curiosity,” Blake turned back into his normal self and wandered off before the military could question him.

Stay tuned to Marvel.com for more throughout Kirby Month and beyond! And join the conversation on all of our social channels with the hashtag #Kirby100.

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Ben Acker and Ben Blacker embark on a journey to ‘The Last Jedi’!

Among the many wild wonders awaiting moviegoers this December in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” the planet Crait stands tall as a battleground that may decide the fate of a galaxy. STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI – STORMS OF CRAIT, hitting the shelves shortly before the film, will not only shed illumination on the world and its possibilities, but also tie its story to the classic era that preceded it in the overall galactic struggle.

The STORMS OF CRAIT writers, Ben Acker and Ben Blacker, can’t be more excited to give readers an up-close tour of everything this mysterious new locale has to offer a certain war-weary band of freedom fighters.

Marvel.com: Gentlemen, how did it feel to be asked not only to write a Star Wars comic, but one that ties directly into the new film and the classic Rebellion era?

Ben Blacker: We’ve been in the Star Wars family for a little while now with our YA novel series Join the Resistance, but this was our first opportunity to write some of the characters who, in many ways, are responsible for our wanting to become storytellers. So, obviously, it’s completely thrilling.

Ben Acker: Yes, just to name-drop some of the folks we have gotten to work with thanks to this issue, there’s Luke, Leia, Han. That’s the big three right there. I also had no idea how much affection I had for Wedge Antilles until we got to write this one.

Ben Blacker: And that the comic takes place around “A New Hope” but has repercussions for the new film is really cool. We’re the biggest fans of [director] Rian Johnson, so anything we get to do that even tangentially ties in with “The Last Jedi” is exciting. Now we want to write tie-ins for all of Rian’s movies. Our “Brick” spin-off about Lukas Haas’ character is gonna be amazing.

Marvel.com: Where are both Luke and Leia at in their heads as this story unfolds? What are they feeling, either privately or publicly?

Ben Blacker: Post-“A New Hope” but before [“Empire Strikes Back”] is an interesting time to visit the characters. They won a battle—they destroyed the Death Star—but they haven’t won the war. So imagine what that does to a leader like Leia, who has so much responsibility resting on her shoulders. She might be looking for any kind of win. And for Luke, who isn’t really a leader yet but both wants and needs to be, he’s still learning what it takes. He’s going to get things wrong because he doesn’t understand the nuanced facets of what makes for a leader.

Ben Acker: Not that we’ve won any battles or anything, but Luke is a classic Hollywood story. He’s a kid who left his moisture farm to be a part of something bigger and he had early success—he blew up the Death Star—but he still feels like a farm boy inside. I found it really relatable.

Marvel.com: Why is the planet Crait of interest at this time to the Rebellion? Why might it be a good place to hide out?

Ben Blacker: When we find the Rebellion in this book, they’re on the run and without a base of operations. Crait has some personal backstory for one of the characters, which is, I think, all we can say about that. It’s also just remote and abandoned enough to be a good Rebel base.

Marvel.com: What did you both personally find fascinating about this world?

Ben Blacker: The most interesting aspect of Crait, I think, is the visual element. What you see in the trailer for “The Last Jedi” is this white-covered planet that kicks up red when the speeders fly over it. It’s really beautiful and kind of creepy. I’m not sure how much we can tell about that visual element, but how the topography got to be that way is a major story point and was definitely the hook for the book for me. And [artist] Mike Mayhew draws the planet gorgeously.

Ben Acker: Mike Mayhew is the real deal. I’m not sure he is capable of drawing anything ungorgeously. I’m also not sure “ungorgeously” is a word.

Star Wars – The Last Jedi: Storms of Crait #1 cover by Marco Checchetto

Marvel.com: Okay, let’s go there—how’s it feel to have Mike backing you on art?

Ben Blacker: This guy is incredible. We loved his work on the STAR WARS title, but collaborating with Mike has been a terrific experience. He’s a really thoughtful artist, asking lots of questions and making lots of suggestions that make the book better. He does his homework too! The ships look amazing, and I have no doubt they’re “correct” down to the details.

Ben Acker:  He’s such a fan of this stuff too. He’s excited by and meticulous about every ship and wardrobe choice. It’s amazing for us to write Luke and Leia, but seeing him put Luke in one particular jacket was next level. Mike inventing Leia’s outfit based on others we’ve seen was the same. It makes it that much more exciting for us and we know the readers will feel the same.

Ben Blacker: His character designs are really considered and smart. And everything just looks stunning. We’re lucky to work with this guy. He makes us look like we know what we’re doing.

Ben Acker:  This is absolutely true.

Marvel.com: Back to the story, who will be the antagonists in this tale? What are the challenges for our heroes?

Ben Blacker: The challenges come from both within and without. As I mentioned, Leia and Luke both struggle with leadership and expectations post-“New Hope.” There’s also some romantic tension between Han and Leia that was fun to play with, nudging them along to where they are in “Empire.” As for outside antagonists, there are a few. If you’re a fan of the ongoing STAR WARS comic—which we really, really are—then you’ll see some familiar baddies.

Marvel.com: Will we see some new, original Rebels of your own creation?

Ben Blacker: You’ll see some new characters. What their alignment is, however, you’ll have to wait to find out.

Marvel.com: You mentioned Mike Mayhew’s work on ships; assuming you get to utilize Rebellion-era ships and the like, what was highest on your priority list to have in the story?

Ben Blacker: The first couple of pages of the story are a big space chase and dogfight. I was excited to write it, but I was more excited to see what the artist did with it. And then we got Mike’s pages and now I cannot wait for everyone to see them! I was never a big vehicles-guy, but the way Mike drew X-Wings, and TIE Fighters, and some of the other ships makes me want to be there. Really, his art makes me feel like I am there.

Ben Acker:  It is un-ungorgeous. I just want to say to Blacker that I’m surprised you’re not a vehicles guy, considering the relish with which you attacked the space chase.

Later this week, artist Mike Mayhew shows off and talks about his work for STAR WARS – THE LAST JEDI: STORMS OF CRAIT, coming soon!

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Writer David F. Walker takes Luke back to his roots for Marvel Legacy!

Once upon a time, Carl Lucas got thrown into jail for a crime he didn’t commit and emerged as Luke Cage, the humbled Hero for Hire. Now, courtesy of writer David F. Walker and artist Guillermo Sanna, he’s going back in.

On October 18, Marvel Legacy begins with a trip back to the crucible that forged this future Avenger in LUKE CAGE #166! The “Caged” story arc catches Luke out of his element, at a low point in his life—and stuck in a prison he can’t escape with his fists.

We sat down with Walker to hear more about heading back to the character’s iconic roots.

Marvel.com: What can you tell us about Luke getting chucked back into prisonand the threats both inside and outside those walls?

David Walker: Well, when Marvel first announced the whole Legacy initiative and we were discussing it, we talked about bringing some of these very iconic characters back to their core and their essence. And to me, it was pretty simple—why don’t we take Luke Cage back to where he started when we first met him back in 1972? Let’s put him back in prison.

And then it became a question of getting him there. What might he be in prison for? How do you keep him in prison when he’s got super strength? We reverse engineered a certain amount. To a certain extent, this storyline that we’re doing could almost be a retelling of his origin in a weird sort of way. So then our questions were: who’s our villain going to be? Who will be his allies? And how will this story take Luke to someplace new?

For me, as a writer, there’s no point of tackling something if you don’t have the opportunity to try to get the character to someplace new—some realization about themselves that they never had.

Marvel.com: Unlike the first time he found himself in jail, Luke heads inside as an established hero. How will this new stint in jail affect him?

David Walker: That’s a really good question and it’s loaded with potential spoilers…but there are some obstacles that keep him from being the Luke Cage we know and love; that keep him from being Luke Cage that he knows he can be, if that makes sense.

A lot of it will be about him rediscovering himself and, in the process, older readers and old school fans will hopefully appreciate the trials and tribulations we’re putting him through. And new fans will jump on to see a guy really going through, essentially, discovery.

Marvel.com: You touched on this, but Luke has his powers now…so what’s stopping him form just breaking out of jail?

David Walker: Ahh, now there’s a big spoiler right there.

There will be obstacles—he’ll face a lot of obstacles and that ended up being one of the tricky things we had to try to figure out: how do you keep him from just busting out? We didn’t want it to be the standard “special prison” that has like, you know, some sort of de-powering ray gun or something like that. But how he’s kept locked up, why he’s locked up, all that stuff becomes interconnected and a lot of it gets revealed within the first issue of the arc. Then we build upon that and then it becomes about overcoming these things that are keeping him trapped.

A lot of it becomes a metaphor for the way all of us can become trapped in circumstances that may be beyond our control and seek to define us in ways that are not accurate or truthful to who we actually are.

Marvel.com: Being behind bars has always been crucial to the Luke Cage legacy because it helped transform Carl Lucas into the hero for hire. Since this kicks off Marvel Legacy, how did you want to explore the character’s history?

David Walker: I’ve been doing a lot of whispering to my editors that I’d love to do a “Luke Cage: Year One” sort of story.

In the original series, back in the ‘70s, the time he spent in prison covered, I think, one or two issues. He didn’t spend a lot of time in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. They would recall that a lot—though they didn’t spend a lot of time showing him there. We’re spending a fair amount of time showing him in this place where he actually doesn’t have the control that he thinks he has or that he’s used to having—and that’s the part of the exploitation of the character.

I really wanted to use this opportunity to tell a story that explored not just Luke Cage at his core, but who Carl Lucas at his core—because a lot of people sort of forget that before he was Luke Cage, he was Carl Lucas. What exists deep down inside? What makes him the hero that he is? That’s part of what I wanted to get into in a way—now he’s in prison with a lot of history and a lot of experience, so who Luke now feels very different than Luke then.

I don’t know if that answers the question or not. I’m worried about dropping spoilers because it seems like this whole story arc is full of spoilers.

Marvel.com: Can you talk about how you went about writing the overall narrativeand perhaps offer a few teasers about what we can expect as the “Caged” storyline begins?

David Walker: There will be more than one cliffhanger. Issues #166-#169 just keep getting worse for Luke. Issue #166 ends pretty bad, #167 feels like, “Oh, I didn’t know it could get any worse,” and then it just keeps getting worse, and worse, and worse for poor Mr. Cage.

Writing it turned into a question of finding the right beats. The first beat, in terms of cliffhanger endings, will be Luke in a situation where he’s unaware and he doesn’t know what’s going on. The second one ups the danger level and will be like, “OK, now we’re going into uncharted territory. And then life and death territory.” We’ll turn up the tension with every single issue.

LUKE CAGE #166, by David F. Walker and artist Guillermo Sanna, hits on October 18!

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Charles Soule gives us a Star Wars mission update!

Cue the recap roll! Poe Dameron and his team of elite pilots have been tasked with finding Lor San Tekka, a wise old explorer who may know the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker. Suffice it to say the gang has faced their fair share of trouble along the way, everything from fighting off a glorified bounty hunter to orchestrating a good old fashion prison break, knocking them a bit off track.

But come October 18, writer Charles Soule and artist Angel Unzueta make sure the team gets back on track. “Most of the main threads we’ve been dealing with in the series have been wrapped up, except one – the one that began the book,” says Soule. STAR WARS: POE DAMERON #20 will kick off a six issue story that is, as Soule puts it, “an epic in the great Star Wars tradition.”

So just how far out is Poe from completing his mission? Let’s check the reports!

Operative: Poe Dameron

Commanding Officer: General Leia Organa

Objective: Find Lor San Tekka and determine what he knows about the last remaining Jedi, Luke Skywalker – our only hope.

Progress: Black Squadron has made some great leaps in furthering the resistance’s agenda, most recently securing a fuel transfer for the rebel bases depleting resources and gathering footage of operatives in action to use as a way to rally support for the cause. However, progress toward the major objective has been slow going.

“Poe made progress early in, finding a list of possible locations, but it’s taken a while for the Resistance to work through it and narrow it down,” notes Soule, “C-3PO and his squad of droid operatives have been working through the list trying to see if any of the locations will bear fruit.” Time to lace up your boots and pound the space pavement as the search kicks off anew.

Poe Dameron (2016) #20

Poe Dameron (2016) #20

  • Published: October 18, 2017
  • Cover Artist: Phil Noto

Deviations: The team has encountered a few hiccups along the way, some more heartbreaking than others. However, “the biggest issue is that Poe made an enemy of an extremely versatile and deadly First Order Security Bureau named Terex,” notes Soule, “This fellow was once an Imperial Stormtrooper, and in the decades since the fall of the Empire made his way through the galaxy by being scarier than anyone else. Not a good person to have trying to hunt you down!”

So far Poe and his team have successfully thwarted the attempts of the First Order to capture them, but with Terex brainwashed into mindlessly following orders, Black Squadron finds it harder and harder to pull of their usual escape just in the knick of time antics.

Next Step: “Survive and thrive…hopefully,” suggests Soule. General Organa has planted a seed in Poe’s mind – the resistance is bigger than just one person. Why is this significant for Poe you may ask? “Poe has lost long-time companions, dealt with traitors, and has been learning the galaxy is a darker, more complex place than he realized,” explains Soule, “He’s understanding that he needs to evolve – that maybe he can’t just be a hotshot pilot anymore. The Resistance needs more – it needs a leader.”

Will Poe find Lor San Tekka and become the leader the Resistance needs? Find out on October 18 in STAR WARS: POE DAMERON #20, written by Charles Soule with art by Angel Unzueta!

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