Mark Waid sends Steve Rogers a Kraven foe!

It’s been difficult for Steve Rogers to make himself at home in America in the aftermath of Secret Empire; even though he dealt with his evil Hydra counterpart and saved the day in heroic fashion, he still has some convincing to do.

And in part three of the “Home of the Brave” storyline, Steve’s journey across the United States continues—though his road trip hits another hurdle as Kraven the Hunter puts the red, white, and blue between his cross-hairs. On January 3, writer Mark Waid and artist Chris Samnee look to ensnare the Sentinel of Liberty in CAPTAIN AMERICA #697!

We spoke with Waid about Rogers’ trials in the heart of America.

Marvel.com: What’s been going on in the “Home of the Brave” arc so far?

Mark Waid: Cap’s been roaming the country looking to reconnect with people. Unfortunately, Kraven’s taking him on a wild detour!

Marvel.com: How has Cap been managing to reclaim his good reputation?

Mark Waid: It’s not the easiest road for him, but given that our story takes place many months after Secret Empire, most people are glad to see Steve Rogers…most people. Not everyone.

Marvel.com: Describe the dynamic you see between Cap and Kraven.

Mark Waid: As you can imagine, Cap has nothing but disdain for someone like Kraven who pretends to have a sense of honor and yet demonstrates anything but. Kraven wants to make Cap his prey, but, as Cap points out, to be prey you have to be afraid of the hunter.

Marvel.com: What ended up being the most challenging element of writing this issue?

Mark Waid: Doing heavy research into genuine jungle traps that real commandos use!

Marvel.com: What proved to be your favorite part to write?

Mark Waid: The opening scene with Steve Rogers at a pool table—it’s a bit I’ve been wanting to use for 20 years.

The hunt begins in CAPTAIN AMERICA #697, by Mark Waid and artist Chris Samnee, on January 3!

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Spidey becomes part of a new Fantastic Four, a reserve Avenger and much more.

For over 50 years, Spider-Man has been a sensational standout in the Marvel Universe, and this year, the web-slinger swings onto the silver screen once more in “Spider-Man: Homecoming”! In celebration of his memorable history, we present Spidey’s spectacular step-by-step story!

Our webby wonder regained his powers in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #343, just in time to cross swords with Simon Steele in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #72, and the Puma in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #172. Ever a glutton for punishment, he even joined with Wolverine, the Hulk, and Ghost Rider to form a new Fantastic Four in FANTASTIC FOUR #348 and #349 when the original was incapacitated.

Fantastic Four (1961) #348

Fantastic Four (1961) #348

What is Marvel Unlimited?

Spidey re-teamed with Ghost Rider to search for a child abducted by Hobgoblin in SPIDER-MAN #6, one which they rescued in SPIDER-MAN #7. Later, the wallcrawler ran across Cardiac in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #344, worked to save his life in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #345, fought Venom again in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #346, and faked his own death to get away from the sinister symbiote in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #347.

Speaking of sinister, Spidey battled the new Sinister Syndicate in DEADLY FOES OF SPIDER-MAN #1, the Headmen in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #73, Spark in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #74, a blizzard in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #75, and the Avant Guard in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #76. Doctor Octopus resurfaced in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #173, and held the new Daily Bugle building and Mary Jane Parker hostage in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #174, as well as J. Jonah Jameson’s wife Marla in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #175.

Spider-Man: Deadly Foes of Spider-Man (Trade Paperback)

Spider-Man: Deadly Foes of Spider-Man (Trade Paperback)

  • Published: October 26, 2011

After finally officially becoming an Avengers reserve substitute member in AVENGERS #329, the webslinger investigated the murder of a young boy in SPIDER-MAN #8, accepted help from Wolverine to track down the suspected murderer in SPIDER-MAN #9, fought the Wendigo in SPIDER-MAN #10, held off both the press and the police in SPIDER-MAN #11, and uncovered the true killer in SPIDER-MAN #12. Our hero crossed the Sandman in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #348, tracked the Black Fox in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #349, and teamed up with none other than Doctor Doom to clash with the Arcane Order of Night in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #350.

The sewer-dwelling Morlocks and a new Firebrand crashed a charity event in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #77, prompting Spidey to descend into the underground to help the Morlocks while Cloak and Dagger confronted the villain in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #78. A new menace called Corona caused a commotion in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #176, sending the wallcrawler up a wall to ask for aid from Reed Richards in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #177. Morbius the Living Vampire put the bite on some bums in SPIDER-MAN #13, so Spidey curbed his appetite in SPIDER-MAN #14.

Infinity Gauntlet (1991) #1

Infinity Gauntlet (1991) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?

Nova arrived like a beam of light to help Spidey against the Life Foundation in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #351 and the Tri-Sentinel in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #352. The wily Silvermane sent android mercenaries to squash the spider-hero in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #79 so that he could use his blood to save his own life in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #80. Still filled with blood, Spidey battled Bloodshed’s thirst for revenge in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #81. In INFINITY GAUNTLET #1, our hero witnessed the death of half the life in the universe along with all the other heroes of Earth.

Vermin crawled back to make Spidey’s skin crawl in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #178 and SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #179. Harry Osborn cracked under the pressure of being the Green Goblin in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #180, drugged his friend the webslinger in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #181, tagged teamed with Vermin in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #182, and entered into his final showdown with Spider-Man in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #183.

Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #353

Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #353

  • Published: November 10, 1991
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: August 06, 2013
What is Marvel Unlimited?

Peter conferred with the Beast over his radioactive blood in SPIDER-MAN #15, blockaded the Juggernaut with X-Force in SPIDER-MAN #16, and died—sort of—in SPIDER-MAN #17. The wallcrawler joined with Darkhawk and the Punisher to fight the Secret Empire in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #353, as well as Nova, Night Thrasher, and Moon Knight in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #354. The Seekers slipped into the scene in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #355, and the whole mess came crumbling down in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #356.

Man-Mountain Marko resurfaced in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #82, and an out-of-work business man became Hypertron 1.0 in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #83.

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Kelly Thompson studies one of Marvel’s greatest relationships!

Few comic book couples have captured readers’ hearts like Rogue and Gambit.

The two mutants might seem perfect for each other, though over the years, a range of obstacles have pulled them apart. On January 3, however, writer Kelly Thompson and artist Pere Perez will unite the duo once again in ROGUE & GAMBIT #1! The five issue limited series sends Anna Marie and Remy LeBeau on a top secret mission, forcing them to dig deep into their shared past like never before.

We spoke with Thompson about pitching the series, examining the relationship, and filling in a few moments we’ve never seen!

Marvel.com: What do you remember being your first exposure to Rogue and Gambit as a couple? Do you recall what you thought of them at the time?

Kelly Thompson: Like a lot of fans of a certain age, my first exposure to Rogue and Gambit—and the X-Men—was “X-Men: The Animated Series.” I was immediately smitten with them as both individuals and as a sexy, but tragic couple. I think it’s fair to say they proved to be my biggest motivator in searching out comics, and I quickly fell in love with those too.

Marvel.com: Did you look back at their relationship in preparation for this book? Did any moments surprise you?

Kelly Thompson: I did a massive read and reread as I prepared the pitch. And I’ve continued rereading as I write. Part of the concept of our limited series does delve into Rogue and Gambit’s past, but in a really accessible continuity-light way. It was fun rediscovering things I loved—and some I’d forgotten from their past.

Definitely one of the most exciting things will be getting to show a few big “between the panels” flashback moments, including the first time Rogue and Gambit ever met—which if you can believe it, has never been seen before. As a super fan—and writer—it felt pretty incredible to be given that honor (and responsibility).

I had the idea to take on such a task, so if I don’t deliver it will be a little bit like I dug my own grave. Woo!

Marvel.com: What do you think makes Rogue and Gambit one of the most interesting couples in comics?

Kelly Thompson: I think, initially, a lot of the appeal of Rogue and Gambit—for good or ill—was the “will they/won’t they” tension of their relationship. And that’s a razor’s edge to dance on; it’s almost impossible to maintain that kind of tension and, as a result, I think they’ve suffered some particularly rough roads. But no matter what they have endured, they have undeniable chemistry on the page together…it’s palpable.

And of course they’re also extremely hot. That never hurts!

Marvel.com: What can you tell us about their undercover mission? How might it help rekindle things or drive them apart?

Kelly Thompson: The very nature of their mission demands that they face a lot of their old issues head-on, which brings out both love and resentment in them. I can’t really go into detail about the plot and how it functions, but if we’re successful, I think it really clears the field for them as a couple and gives them a chance for a fresh start…but we’ll have to see if they opt to take that chance.

Marvel.com: It sounds like issue #2 will feature an in-depth look at Gambit and Rogue’s history. How did it feel to compile and compress all of that emotion?

Kelly Thompson: Our story really functions on two levels, to my mind—on one hand it’s a pretty simple action-adventure story high on fun with some romance thrown in. And it’s very accessible for new or lapsed readers, despite all that history, thanks to some of the functions of the plot. But there’s also a separate, more esoteric layer for people interested in that kind of thing that I think has more to say about who they are (and have always been) as a couple and what that means for them. For their past and their future. In this way, I hope there’s something here for everyone.

Kick off the limited series with ROGUE & GAMBIT #1, by Kelly Thompson and artist Pere Perez, on January 3!

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Thor tackles two powerful foes for the very first time!

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.

Coming up with villains who could give a powerhouse like Thor a run for his money had to have been a challenge for Jack Kirby and Stan Lee as they shepherded the character along from his first appearance in JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #83. With 1964’s JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #105106, they teamed up an unlikely duo who nearly defeated the Odinson!

In that story, Mr. Hyde and Cobra—who first appeared in issues #99 and #98 of the series respectively—met only after the serpentine villain fought Thor effectively with his Serpent’s Sting and Cobra Cable equipment. Knowing he shouldn’t press his luck, though, the thief ducked into a window that belonged to none other than Dr. Calvin Zabo. Sensing an intruder, the mild-mannered scientist downed a formula and quickly turned into Mr. Hyde! During the ensuing and inevitable fight between the two rogues, they came to realize they shared an enemy in a certain Thunder God and decided to team up against him!

First, the bad guys realized they needed to find Thor, so Hyde whipped up an invention called The Time Reversal Ray. After zapping someone with it, the device projected the individual’s past up on the wall for all to see. They then staged a crime that Thor responded to and soon discovered a connection between the Avenger and Dr. Donald Blake! The depraved duo then smashed their way into Blake’s office where he stood without mighty Mjolnir disguised as his humble cane. They also grabbed Jane Foster, returning to the office after ditching her date. Blake tricked them into averting their eyes and tapping the cane, which transformed him into Thor while they weren’t looking.

Journey Into Mystery (1952) #105

Journey Into Mystery (1952) #105

  • Published: June 10, 1964
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: January 01, 2000
  • Penciller: Jack Kirby
  • Cover Artist: Jack Kirby
What is Marvel Unlimited?

Surprised by their foe’s quick appearance, the villains made a break for it, enacting a plan B that saw Cobra slither to safety while Hyde led his quarry into the Colosseum where people flooded in and out for the Heavy Machinery Show. Unable to throw his hammer for fear of hurting innocents, Thor did his best to stop the brute’s rampage. Taking advantage of the Thunderer’s divided attention and a nearby Atomic-Powered Hydraulic Hoist, Cobra snatched Mjolnir right out of the air and deposited it into the machine’s steel-lined storage compartment!

With Thor separated from his hammer, our hero only had 60 seconds before reverting to Don Blake, and found himself facing two oncoming attackers with hatred in their eyes. With less than a minute to go, the Mighty Avenger flipped the villains on their ears and took advantage of the fleeing crowd to cover his transformation back to human form. As the police arrived outside, Blake realized that he could not get into the hoister’s storage container alone, so he tricked Hyde and Cobra into liberating it for him. He then made off into the crowd to once again change into his alter ego.

Returned to his full strength and none-too-pleased at how he’d been treated previously, Thor quickly engaged in fisticuffs with his foes, knocking Cobra for a loop and then exploding a machine near Hyde. The latter took the time to turn into Zabo, thinking it would facilitate his escape while the cops seized Cobra, but he just couldn’t let his grudge go and transformed back into Hyde to attack Thor. However, without his slippery partner around to distract the Thunder God, our hero made short work of the miscreant.

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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Old pals Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones reunite to task Peter Parker!

There’s reunions going on all over in the pages of PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN come March! Already you’ve got Pete and his maybe-sister Teresa trying to figure out their relationship, but as of issue #301, that family drama takes a backseat to the triumphant return of the Chip ZdarskyJoe Quinones team! That’s right, the writer-artist duo that wowed you on HOWARD THE DUCK hooks back up to chronicle the adventures of everybody’s favorite Wallcrawler!

“I’m a big fan of stealing creative teams off other editor’s books, so as soon as Chip signed on to PETER PARKER, I knew we had to get Joe Quinones to come too.” shares Executive Editor Nick Lowe.

As Zdarsky welcomes Quinones to SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN, so does Peter Parker continue to initiate J. Jonah Jameson in the ways of arachnid adventure, now that this avid Spidey-hater possesses knowledge of the Webslinger’s secret identity. The unlikely team–along with Teresa–tumbles back in time to try and deal with a problem spinning out of the series’ landmark 300th issue.

“The story that Chip has for [issues] #301-303 is perfect for the character acting and wonderful madness that Joe brings to the table,” concludes Lowe.

This March, book some time with Chip Zdarsky, Joe Quinones, Peter Parker, and J. Jonah Jameson for a trip through time you won’t soon forget! It all starts in PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #301!

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A new epic of intinite proportions envelops the Marvel Universe beginning this March!

Scattered across the Marvel cosmos, six stones, each accompanied by inconceivable abilities…together they pave the path to omnipotence. Who will possess these invincible cosmic weapons? INFINITY COUNTDOWN will tell the tale!

INFINITY COUNTDOWN PRIME–available in February from writer Gerry Duggan and artist Mike Deodato–begins the procession to a new story so big it will engulf the Guardians of the Galaxy and bring about the end of that venerable group before calling the entire Marvel Universe to bear. With the five-part INFINITY COUNTDOWN series beginning in March, Duggan and Aaron Kuder gather the players for an upcoming adventure playing out with unimaginable scale.

“As we worked on the Infinity Stones’ story, it became clear the story was much bigger than we could contain in the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY series,” explains editor Jordan D. White. “It starts with the Guardians, but the story extends out into the entire Marvel Universe, with stones popping up in some very surprising places. COUNTDOWN is the next step in the story…but as the name implies, it’s leading to something even greater.”

Infinity Countdown Prime cover by Mike Deodato

Infinity Countdown #1 cover by Nick Bradshaw

The epic promises to include everybody from the Avengers to the X-Men and all heroes and villains in between, as the mystery surrounding the Stones swells and pulls in more and more major movers and shakes. All the while, mysterious forces forge a new weapon like nothing ever seen before–how does it connect to the Infinity Stones? What will it mean for the Marvel Universe? And who will possess it?

The intergalactic action begins with INFINITY COUNTDOWN PRIME in February–featuring a prose primer on the Infinity Stones–and spills over into INFINITY COUNTDOWN proper the next month. Don’t miss the biggest event to impact the larger Marvel mythos since Secret Wars!

The countdown for the ultimate weapon begins this February…but where it ends, only time will tell…

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The X-Men make history with Cullen Bunn!

With the timestream in ruins, the Blue squad needs to find a way to restore history before saving themselves from…themselves.

A collection of mysterious “other” versions of the X-Men have appeared to occupy the team’s places in the past. And, at long last, the original X-Men get their reunion with Professor Charles Xavier. So how will the mutants react? Find out on January 10 in writer Cullen Bunn and artist RB Silva’s X-MEN: BLUE #19!

With so many electrifying mysteries at play in this story, we went to Cullen for some answers!

Marvel.com: Walk us through what’s been happening in “Cross-Time Capers” so far!

Cullen Bunn: The story is really just getting started! The X-Men have realized that everything around them has started changing. Polaris vanishes out of nowhere. Magneto disappears. Watching television, Bobby sees a report about the anniversary of the X-Men killing Magneto and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, something that never happened, of course.

It’s almost as if reality is correcting itself all around them, healing the way a broken bone heals…imperfectly. Amidst all this, they receive a message from Professor X, saying he needs them in the past. Thanks to the Time Platform that Magneto has been secretly building, they have the means to do that. But their first jump through the time stream took them to the future instead of the past and they’ve been trying to work their way back from there ever since.

Marvel.com: How has the Blue team been trying to put the timeline right?

Cullen Bunn: The message from Professor Xavier comes from the past, and they believe that something has happened in their original time to cause all these strange problems. They believe that their absence in the past may finally be catching up with them!

The problem is that they visited their point of origin once before and saw that they still existed there. They started to believe that maybe they came from an alternate reality…but if that’s the case, how could they be causing such trouble in this reality? It all feels pretty headache-inducing for them.

Marvel.com: Will Professor X have some answers once they all meet up?

Cullen Bunn: I don’t know if Professor X will have all the answers, but he does have something very important to tell the X-Men—something that will guide them in the days to come. They’ll come out of this story with a clearer view of where they’re headed. They’ll have more questions, too, but that’s only to be expected.

Marvel.com: How do the “other” X-Men, as seen on the cover, play into this issue?

Cullen Bunn: This story has everything to do with the “other” X-Men they saw when they hopped back through time in ALL-NEW X-MEN. When they reach the past and encounter themselves, they’ll be quite surprised by what they find!

The Blue team will wonder if something changed in them when they started traveling through time. In facing their past selves, though, they will need to align with an unexpected ally…

Marvel.com: How do you think this experience has changed the X-Men?

Cullen Bunn: The Original Five are completely different than they were before. They have discovered new things–about themselves and about the world. They have developed new relationships, developed new abilities and powers. All of that’s important, too. Assuming these X-Men come from “our” reality, there’s no way they can just return to their time. The physical and psychological changes they’ve experienced could “break time” too.

Marvel.com: If the Blue team manages to get back to where they came from, will the Gold team follow?

Cullen Bunn: This one stands all on the shoulders of the Blue team—they are the only heroes who can solve this crisis…because, in many ways, they caused it. If they fail, the Gold team will likely never exist. As you’ll see in the story, their travels through time have really twisted reality, not just for them, but for others in the future and the past as well.

Marvel.com: How does the team feel about the prospect of going back to their old lives?

Cullen Bunn: It’s not something any of them take lightly. Some of them—like Bobby—hate the idea of returning once and for all. But, as I mentioned, it’s more than just popping into the past and carrying on as if nothing ever happened; the X-Men are different now. They can’t simply go home. If time can continue unhindered, they must return just as they were when they left. Their physical changes must be undone. Their mental changes must be undone.

Imagine knowing that, in order for the world to go on spinning, you have to sacrifice everything that makes you who you are; for some of the X-Men, that price might be one they’re unwilling to pay.

Marvel.com: Any hints as to how this whole paradox will resolve itself?

Cullen Bunn: They have to be very careful here. They could change everything with their actions in the past. Really, though, that’s how they have gotten themselves into this mess in the first place. We’ll see that they are not the only people from the past that know they have been traveling through time.

We’ll also see that they’re really just patching leaks in the time stream with this adventure; if they want to repair the paradox once and for all, they must return to their timeline. Anything else destroys reality.

While this is a fun, crazy adventure, I think it leaves the Blue team with a deeper understanding of the inescapable fate that ultimately awaits them.

Cullen Bunn and artist RB Silva’s X-MEN: BLUE #19 ventures into the past on January 10!

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Marco Checchetto takes aim at an Old Man Logan prequel!

Clint Barton has unfinished business in the future. The accomplished archer may survive in the Wasteland, but he finds himself still dealing with his past in the pages of OLD MAN HAWKEYE by Ethan Sacks and Marco Checchetto. Set five years before the events of the original “Old Man Logan” story by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven, the 12-issue limited series will chronicle the Avenging Archer’s adventures as he tries to make good on his mistakes even as his eyesight fails him.

We talked with Checchetto about referencing McNiven’s original opus, working with Sacks, and coming up with all new denizens of the Wasteland!

Marvel.com: What was the process like for developing Clint’s look a few years before we first saw him in “Old Man Logan”?

Marco Checchetto: I drew Clint slightly different from the version seen in “Old Man Logan.” He still has sight and is still fit. He was a super hero. I’ve only filled him with scars, and one of them has the shape vaguely reminiscent of the “A” of the Avengers. I took off his glasses and then I decided to loosen his hair. As for clothes, I wanted to give them a more military and technical look. My intention, then, is to give him, as much as possible, a melancholy look. Hawkeye knows that the super hero times are over, but he does not accept it.

Marvel.com: Between the original “Old Man Logan” story and the current ongoing series, we’ve seen many aspects of the Wasteland. How has it been mixing the previously glimpsed with your own designs?

Marco Checchetto: For this prequel, I chose to stay close to what we saw in the [original] “Old Man Logan” [story] and the great work of Steve McNiven. I’ll be very respectful in regards to already known places. As for the whole “new” environments, on the other hand, it is a continuous challenge and it is certainly one of the most exciting factors in this series for me.

Marvel.com: Along similar lines, you’re dealing with old, new and re-designed characters set in this alternate future. How has it been working out those designs?

Marco Checchetto: In this case, also, for the characters who appeared in the original series, I will remain very close to what we have already [seen]. The most important part, however, will surely be the new characters. We will see the Wasteland versions of many characters known and loved by readers. I can only mention a couple of them for the moment: Madrox and Venom. The others will be a surprise along with many easter eggs that will awaken the memory of old readers and will stimulate the curiosity of the most recent readers.

Marvel.com: Have any of the new characters or design elements given you more of a challenge than the others?

Marco Checchetto: For some of these characters it was not simple. The one that has created [the most] problems is definitely Venom, because I wanted it to be different from everything we have already seen. I wanted it not only to be a black liquid, but a sentient organ, and so I created a real internal matter of flesh and viscera. It will be hard to draw it on all the pages, but I hope it gives an added value [where it appears].

Marvel.com: How has it been working with writer Ethan Sacks so far?

Marco Checchetto: Ethan is fantastic, the story is marvelous, and every time I get the script of a new issue I devour it to know what madness I will have to draw this time. Each issue is full of surprises, and despite being a very long [series]—12 issues—I’m sure I’ll miss it in the end. The script is clear and precise, but gives me the right space to express myself with the setting of the page that I prefer. Ethan is an enthusiast and that exudes from his pages. I’m sure you’ll love this series.

Return to the Wasteland on January 10 with Ethan Sacks and Marco Checchetto in OLD MAN HAWKEYE #1!

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Marc Guggenheim previews a 20th anniversary Excalibur reunion!

Some call Excalibur “the X-Men of Great Britain,” while others just call them “awesome.” Either way, this super hero team will get a special reunion in the X-MEN: GOLD ANNUAL #1!

Writers Marc Guggenheim and Leah Williams join artist Alitha Martinez to re-team Kitty Pryde, Nightcrawler, Prestige, Captain Britain, and Meggan for a face off against a rather unconventional villain. Co-created in 1987 by Chris Claremont and Alan Davis (who provides the cover for this issue), Excalibur makes its triumphant return on January 10!

In anticipation of their coming back together, we spoke with Guggenheim about what makes this super group so memorable.

Marvel.com: What do you think makes Excalibur so unique?

Marc Guggenheim: I’d always seen Excalibur as this really interesting hybrid team born out of, I imagine, Claremont and Davis’ collaborations on UNCANNY X-MEN and CAPTAIN BRITAIN. It seemed almost as if Chris and Alan said to each other, “Hey we’ve worked together on X-MEN and we’ve worked together on CAPTAIN BRITAIN…what about doing a book about both?” In other words, EXCALIBUR exists because of the history of the creators, not out of a need to spin off certain characters or put some characters together with others. To my thinking, this was an extremely unique approach, particularly when you consider that EXCALIBUR premiered back when there weren’t as many X-Men titles as have become the norm. Being one of a very few number of X-titles, EXCALIBUR had a unique position.

Marvel.com: Did you want to explore a certain aspect of the team’s dynamic in this story?

Marc Guggenheim: The “found family” aspect of Excalibur—how these people got thrown together and decided to create their own family dynamic—really spoke to me. And, obviously, it spoke to Leah as well because that element really shines through in her script.

Marvel.com: Knowing how many family reunions go, will there be any bitterness or bickering among the heroes?

Marc Guggenheim: Not really. While I think bitterness or bickering often acts as a component of reunions, it wouldn’t work for Excalibur. It wouldn’t be consistent with the fun, madcap tone that Chris and Alan created.

Marvel.com: Should we expect to run into any classic Excalibur villains?

Marc Guggenheim: Not in this story, no. I really wanted to revisit the character of Starhammer—the D’Bari out for revenge against Rachel Summers who was last seen in UNCANNY X-MEN #135. It’s a super deep cut, but the character has always struck me as more tonally consistent with EXCALIBUR than X-MEN, so he seemed like a natural fit for this.

Marvel.com: In your wildest imagination, where would you want to see the team go after the Annual? 

Marc Guggenheim: Nothing would make me happier than to see Leah Williams relaunch Excalibur into a new series. She totally gets the tone of Excalibur and understands what makes the original series so beloved. And Maggie, the character Leah introduces in the Annual, would make for a pitch-perfect member of the team, in my opinion.

Reunite with Excalibur in Marc Guggenheim, Leah Williams, and Alitha Martinez’s X-MEN: GOLD ANNUAL #1 on January 10!

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Christopher Hastings looks back at the creation of Gwen Poole!

From overnight variant cover sensation to fully fleshed out adventuress, Gwenpool’s come a long way in a relatively short time. Now, poised for the launch of her new story arc “Lost in the Plot,” she’s never been better, more believable, and…well, unbelievable, too!

And on January 10, writer Christopher Hastings and artist Gurihiru‘s UNBELIEVABLE GWENPOOL #24 reteams Gwen Poole with Georges Batroc! Together again, the duo look to exercise their villainous sides by robbing a Manhattan casino. But, as with all of Gwen’s books, the issue contains more layers than might appear.

Before issue #24 comes out, however, we decided to take a look back at how Hastings—Gwenpool’s co-creator, along with artist Chris Bachalo—crafted such a one-of-a-kind character.

Marvel.com: Chris, Gwenpool originally jumped off a variant cover before breaking the fourth-wall and jumping into everyone’s heartshas there ever been a character with such a unique conceptual origin as her?

Christopher Hastings: Gwenpool’s creation process is fairly unique as far as I know. I’d love to find out other cases of creative teams coming up with a character’s backstory after having first appeared as a variant cover.

But as far as Gwen’s fourth wall breaking, she certainly has her influences. She-Hulk and Deadpool have definitely acknowledged they live in a comic, with She-Hulk occasionally stepping out between panels in a similar way to Gwen Poole. Animal Man has also, of course, influenced what we decided to do with Gwenpool. Not to mention the “Thursday Next” series.

I think Gwenpool diverts from other comic characters who break the fourth wall because we take it very seriously and we treat it as if it were real. If Gwen knows that Jane Foster is Thor because she’s read that comic, that’s a pretty big problem for Jane. If Gwen can jump through panels, well, that means she can travel through time. And we like to see how that actually could play out. It adds a lot of really fun story possibilities to the super hero world.

Marvel.com: How did you go about crafting such a unique character?

Christopher Hastings: I wanted some similarities to Deadpool—mercenary work, fourth wall breaking—but for her to have them for her own reasons. And that’s how I came up with the idea of her being a person from the real world transported into the comics. Everything else just spins off of that. She puts on the costume to become a “main character” and not a disposable “extra.” She’s uses weaponry because she has no powers. She’s a mercenary because she wants to have fun in the Marvel Universe, and also she needs money. She talks about everything like it’s a comic book, because she knows it is. And then later down the road, that knowledge sort of expands, it levels up. And now she can see the panel borders and interact with them.

Marvel.com: How did you decide on the balance between humor and drama? And how has that changed for you over time?

Christopher Hastings That balance is one of my biggest interests in writing, and I don’t think I’ve quite cracked it. Every time I sit down to write, I try to learn from how it went last time and how to do it a bit better. I know I’m a comedian. I like jokes, and I like to read and write funny comic books. But I also know that humor can open a back door into your heart, so I try to bring some depth and character to the situation too, so you grow to love the characters. They’re not just disposable joke-spewers. But you don’t want it to get too heavy and dreary either, especially when the reader gets sold something that’s supposed to be funny. You want that drama and that character, because it keeps you coming back, but you it shouldn’t weigh everything down either. Like I said, I don’t think I’ve figured it out yet!

Marvel.com: What element of her growth as a character has received the most surprising reaction from fans?

Christopher Hastings: I can’t believe that some people still think she’s Gwen Stacy! But I think that actually works to our advantage now. People instinctively hate when someone is wrong on the Internet, so whenever someone says she’s Gwen Stacy, an army of Gwenpool readers shows up to tell the real deal about the book. I’m very grateful for those readers.

Marvel.com: Who do you see as Gwenpool’s greatest arch-enemy? And why?

Christopher Hastings: In small ways, she acts as her own worst enemy. She’s impulsive, she doesn’t quite read situations one-hundred percent the right way, and she acts on incorrect assumptions.

But also, in a very literal way, Gwen’s arch-enemy is herself—the future evil version that she’s terrified to become. That potential evil future Gwen has been the reason for everything that’s happened in the series since issue #16.

Marvel.com: With that in mind, what sorts of GWENPOOL stories would you like to tell that perhaps you haven’t gotten to yet?

Christopher Hastings I would love to do a story where Gwen has to chase her future evil version through the past of Marvel Comics, where the future evil Gwen messes with the origins of all the Marvel heroes, stopping them from getting their super powers. Current Gwen would have to fix things, but in order to do that, she’d have to hurt the characters she loved! Uncle Ben would have to die. Banner would have to be cursed to become The Hulk. Tony Stark would have to survive being a prisoner of war. It’s a lot of tragic origins that would just tear Gwen up to be forced to recreate for the greater good. I pitched this story a while ago, and we couldn’t do it for Secret Reasons, so I’m not spoiling anything by laying it out here.

Marvel.com: Likewise, which character would you love to have guest star?

Christopher Hastings I’d really love for Gwenpool and Squirrel Girl to have a story together. I love UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL, and her writer, Ryan North, is one of my dearest friends and occasional collaborators. It would be a blast.

Marvel.com: Here’s hoping! To finish, what’s coming up in the next few issues of UNBELIEVABLE GWENPOOL that really has you stoked? Something you can’t wait for readers to see?

Christopher Hastings As silly as this may sound, I’ve really come to love the version of Batroc the Leaper that we’ve made for this series. He’s become a mentor figure to Gwen—kind of a cranky uncle. UNBELIEVABLE GWENPOOL #24 completely focuses on Gwen and Batroc’s relationship, and we get to do some cool stuff with both Gwen’s comic powers, and Batroc’s uh…really great kicks and jumps. Seriously.

Read UNBELIEVABLE GWENPOOL #24, by Christopher Hastings and artist Gurihiru, on January 10!

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