Kelly Sue DeConnick ASSEMBLES the AVENGERS After Bendis

On Friday afternoon, in the midst of a week of Marvel NOW! relaunches, Marvel announced a new creative team on a continuing series. After Brian Bendis and Mark Bagley leave behind Avengers Assemble, writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Stefano Casselli are taking over the series.

Avengers Assemble debuted March 2012, two months ahead of the feature film Marvel's The Avengers. Featuring the same team as the film, it seemed primed to introduce fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to the world of Avengers Comics. Later in the Bendis and Bagley run, the duo brought in Thanos, the "stinger" villain of the film, and the Guardians of the Galaxy, who, it was announced in July 2012, are getting a movie in the MCU of their own.

Curious, then, that Jessica Drew, Spider-Woman, is featured on the cover of November's Avengers Assemble #9 by DeConnick and Casselli. Introducing a new character to a team is common practice in comic books, but with this book's obvious ties to the MCU, it certainly raises a few eyebrows.

Monday evening, DeConnick and editor Lauren Sankovitch joined press for a conference call to talk about how this film-friendly title will continue to evolve and expand, and Newsarama was on the call to get all the fresh details.

Marvel PR maven Arune Singh introduced DeConnick and Casselli both on the call, as well as editors Sankovitch and Tom Brevoort. Casselli started by apologizing for his bad English, and Singh assured him everyone would be very nice.

 To kick things off, Singh asked the editors to explain why they chose this team for Assemble.  



Sankovitch said, "When we knew Brian was coming off the book, we wanted to find someone we really wanted to work with. We liked the preliminary stuff we'd seen from Kelly Sue, and we were excited to work with her, and to get some lady-power in the Avengers line-up. Stefano, I'd worked with him and his Amazing Spider-Man work made him a shoe-in.

"

Brevoort continued, "Avengers Assemble will continue very much in the vein of the prior 8 issues, featuring primarily quintessential Avengers, with a few new characters brought in as it goes. The focus will be on the classic, the public, the movie avengers, so to speak."



Singh turned it to DeConnick for the roster roll-call.



DeConnick : "Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Spider-Woman, and Captain Marvel, who's not shown on the cover. I have an affinity for the character, and decided if I got to choose, she's going to be on the team as well!"

Singh then followed up by asking DeConnick for a one-word description of the series and she said "AC/DC." "I pitched it as the short rock, classic Avengers. When I saw the movie, I managed to keep it together until that point when Iron Man flew on the screen with AC/DC playing. Then I started bouncing in my chair clapping, and that's what I'm writing for. That's the moment."

Asked about Stefano Casselli, DeConnick said while it's a "very new collaboration, and we haven't gotten to know each other too well, I have great affection for working with Italians!"

Singh moved back to the story itself, asking bout specific themes the writer hopes to explore.

"I'm interested in them as celebrities. How they work being a hero and a star. I'm interested in New Media ideas as well, and trying to weave a bit of that through. It's funny, that term, New Media, is so old now, it seems like a strange thing to use! But the Avengers in the age of the Internet, how does that affect their public personas? That, the idea of evolution, transformation, and the different ways these people look at the future as a concept.

Moving into press questions, the first asked about any Dark Avengers characters showing up in the series.

DeConnick: "Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Spider-Woman, and Captain Marvel, who's not shown on the cover. I have an affinity for the character, and decided if I got to choose, she's going to be on the team as well!"

Singh then followed up by asking Kelly Sue for a one-word description of the series and she said "AC/DC." "I pitched it as the short rock, classic Avengers. When I saw the movie, I managed to keep it together until that point when Iron Man flew on the screen with AC/DC playing. Then I started bouncing in my chair clapping, and that's what I'm writing for. That's the moment."

Asked about Stefano Casselli, DeConnick said while it's a "very new collaboration, and we haven't gotten to know each other too well, I have great affection for working with Italians!"

Singh moved back to the story itself, asking bout specific themes the writer hopes to explore.

"I'm interested in them as celebrities. How they work being a hero and a star. I'm interested in New Media ideas as well, and trying to weave a bit of that through. It's funny, that term, New Media, is so old now, it seems like a strange thing to use! But the Avengers in the age of the Internet, how does that affect their public personas? That, the idea of evolution, transformation, and the different ways these people look at the future as a concept.

Moving into press questions, the first asked about any Dark Avengers characters showing up in the series.

DeConnick: "I don't have anything firm, but there is one on the table, I'm trying to find out if that's possible."

Next went into the roster and asked what went into the decision behind this core group.

DeConnick: "This is the classic Avenger book, the book you want to be able to easily hand to a civilian. So these are the movie idols, right? Of course, Black Widow is not present on our initial cover, but we'll be getting to her – she's not been shunted.

“I just really really like Jessica Drew. I like how kind of crazy and angry and broken she is, so that was a character I really wanted to write."

Kiel Phegley from CBR asked about the gauntlet thrown down by the first creative team and how she plans to respond.

DeConnick: "I don't ever want to be in direct competition with Brian Bendis, I think that's not a good idea. There's probably some way I could take him? A cooking contest maybe? I might be able to beat him up…

“But I'm not fool enough to stack my comics against his, but I think we have a similar sense of humor, a similar love of bantery dialogue. I've been a fan of his for many many years, since long before I knew him. He's been a direct influence on my work. But I'm writing my Avengers book, I would never stack it against his."

The next question went into taking on a team book versus a solo character.

DeConnick: "I really like large casts. It's a more comfortable way for me to write. I like to rotate point of view in scenes. Osborn is a really good example, the way we move from Norah to Osborn to the Priest, we used that novel concept of going chapter to chapter. So it's actually been more difficult for me to shift to Captain Marvel where I'm pretty much with Carol the whole time. I'm actually more comfortable with the Avengers format."

We asked about Jessica Drew and Captain Marvel in particular as movie-friendly characters.

Kelly Sue stumbled over her answer at first, and Tom Brevoort jumped in.

"We talk sometimes about things being accessible to a civilian audience, and that our complexity or back-story might be a deficit. All these characters are iconic, though. Captain Marvel is about as iconic a name and identity as possible. That, on the surface of it is as simple as it gets. The Deeper that you get, getting into the quirks and personality and history of the character, you can get into that. The fact that she's a complex character is fairly irrelevant if in the story you're telling she's Captain Marvel and ready to go. Spider-Woman is the same way, she has a crazy complicated back-story, but if I say Spider-Woman, people will think Spider-Man and already feel like they know a lot about the character.

“So, depending on the story, I wouldn't mind if we mixed other Avengers into that story, as long as there's enough of a balance of core characters that the audience can relate to. If Cap, Thor, Hulk, Iron Man are standing next to whomever you understand them in context. They have not yet been in a film, but wait till Avengers 9!”

The next reporter asked if the cast will rotate at all, and  DeConnick said, "It will switch up, absolutely. It'll switch around."

Brevoort added, "Just like Hickman's book, which has a core cast of 18 characters, that means there are 18 that can be pulled in at any time that are on the A-list. So they'll come in and out throughout the stories in each book."

The next question asked about developing a group philosophy for this line-up of Avengers.

DeConnick: "I don't think I can make that declaration for them as a group yet. I have ideas for the individuals about why they do what they do, and it's been fun to butt them up against one another. Particularly right now, I'm looking at Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, and how these two great minds come at the world from completely different directions. They're very, very different men. So my focus right now has been more what makes them different than what brings them together."

Brevoort said there's a larger philosophy for all the core books, though. "This is the Aaron Sorkin book. Avengers is about a group of diverse yet dedicated people taking on a task, bouncing back and forth, and making the world a better place."

What villains can we expect to see?

DeConnick: "I can't answer that without blowing anything! Sorry! I can give you some other heroes that are showing up! In the early ones, we have cameos from Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Scarlet Witch!"

It seemed like Avengers Assemble is a little more free from continuity, will this book stay self-contained?

Brevoort said, "for the most part we'll play it by ear. I want to make sure it's civilian-appropriate enough for someone that's just seen the film. But that being said, if there's something going on in other titles such as Captain Marvel and that can be reflected in some way in Assemble, I have no problem in that, either. It just has to be presented in a way to make it readable for someone who hasn't read that book."

How are you approaching the characters and the way they interact in particular?

DeConnick: "The voices in my head are the movie voices for Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, and Captain America. My Spider-Woman is Bendis's Spider-Woman."

Brevoort: "It's just Bendis's voice but very high."

DeConnick: "Whether the dialogue comes across that way, someone else will have to judge that, but that's the humor and charisma that I'm hearing in my head."

Will Vision be showing up in this series?

DeConnick: "Never say never! I don't have plans in the super immediate future."

Any other heroes together that aren't normally together?

DeConnick: "In this first arc, it's kind of an Amazing Race thing, where the Avengers are teaming up and competing with one another. Spider-Woman is teamed with Hulk, and Thor with Iron Man."

What's it like being the second woman to write an ongoing Avengers title?

DeConnick: "For me personally, I'm looking for any way that there could possibly be more pressure on me for this…

"I'm not trying to be dismissive. Gender in comics is important to me. But I like to look at trends, how we're treating our female characters, the visibility of the characters, the respect given to our female readership, and that we don't treat women that have an interest in working in this industry as peculiar, or that there's something about heroism or sci-fi that is inherently masculine.

"This is a thing that's near and dear to my heart, I've always had this interest, I read superhero comics growing up. The hero ideal is as important to my daughter as to my son. I don't want her to think that if she has an interest in this it's somehow peculiar.

"I don't want to represent all women in comics. I hope that I'm always trying so hard that my reach will sometimes exceed my grasp, but I don't want people to think, oh women can't do that."

Brevoort said, "It's a nice factoid, but I didn't hire a woman to write Avengers, I hired Kelly Sue to write the Avengers, because she can get the job done. It's a nice thing, even nicer that she's not the first, thank you Ann Nocenti. She's a writer writing the book, just like Rick over on Uncanny, just like Jonathan.

DeConnick, "But if Jonathan blows it, that means no more southerners should write the books!"

Are you keeping the cosmic focus at all, or going more earthbound again?

Brevoort, "I don't think it will be specifically cosmic-focused, but it's an Avengers book, so it'll go all over the world and the universe as the story takes it. We can go anywhere, do anything, it's not all one thing in one place. It won't specifically be cosmic-focused, but that doesn't mean we won't go to the cosmic arena if the mood strikes us."

And with that the press call was over.

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