Horror Novelist Pits Hawkeye Against the Cannibal AVENGERS

Horror novelist Jonathan Maberry is best known for writing popular books about vampires and zombies like and , but in recent years he's branched out to Marvel Comics, with a stint on , and more.

Starting in 2010, Maberry has embraced his roots with , a miniseries featuring Frank Castle as the last man standing against plague-infected superheroes, who have been transformed into zombie-like marauders. The story continued the next year with , and continues with the current four-issue miniseries Marvel Universe vs. The Avengers, this time starring Hawkeye against Earth's Mightiest Cannibals, and running monthly through January 2013.

With issue #1 in stores now, Newsarama talked with Maberry about the latest installment of his post-apocalyptic exploration of the Marvel Universe, working with series artist Leandro Fernandez and how Hawkeye's approach differs from Punisher or Wolverine.

Marvel Universe

vs. The Avengers

#1 cover.

Newsarama: Jonathan, Marvel Universe vs. The Avengers comes more than a year after Marvel Universe vs. Wolverine. Did you always envision a third part to this story, or did you find that you just had more to say about this world? And do you envision it potentially continuing even further after this story?

Jonathan Maberry: By the time I finished the first series, Marvel Universe vs. Punisher, I knew that there was a lot more story to tell. That first series actually takes place five years after the outbreak, with the infection itself covered in flashback snippets. I’d already built in a lot of potential story threads into the first series, and when the opportunity came to go back and tell a more complete tale I jumped at it.

That said, I was acutely aware that this was essentially the story of the fall of the Marvel Universe. To tear it down in a single book was not only a disservice to the universe itself, but it would have meant ignoring the individual stories of key characters. With Marvel Universe vs. Wolveirne, I got to explore an almost entirely different set of characters, and by telling their story it allowed me to bring a different perspective to the tale. The events as viewed by, say, Punisher and Wolverine, are different; just as any event is different when filtered through individual perception and involvement.

With Marvel Universe vs. The Avengers, we again come into the story from a different angle, this time via Hawkeye’s experience, and that allows us to tell yet a different story. After all, the Punisher and Wolverine weren’t everywhere during this crisis — so they couldn’t have seen all there was to see.

And nor, come to think of I, could Hawkeye, I’ve left doorways open for quite a few new stories. After all, the Marvel Universe is vast.

Nrama: Let's talk about Hawkeye, who's the main character in the current series, and untouched by the plague. How did you arrive on focusing on him? And what aspects of his character can readers expect to see explored that wouldn't normally be seen in a traditional Marvel Universe title?

Maberry: I chose Hawkeye because he’s always been a bit of an outsider even while serving as a member of a team. He began his career as a villain and made the transition to hero in the earliest days of the Avengers. He’s been in virtually every major Avengers battle, and in countless versions of their lineup, and yet who is he? He’s a man who’s good with hand-to-hand combat and he can handle a bow and arrows. He can’t fly, he’s not super strong, he isn’t invulnerable. In fact his total lack of superpowers makes him a natural proxy for the readers. Think about how brave a guy like him would have to be to rush into battle alongside a god, a super solder, a man in high-tech armor, an indestructible mass of muscle and other heroes. It’s like a kid with a slingshot riding with Delta Force.

Marvel Universe

vs. The Avengers

#2 cover.

As this series progresses we focus mainly on him, and on Black Widow and the Punisher, both of whom are equally unpowered.

When viewed from a distance, this isn’t the kind of fight that can be won with brute force, laser beams, magic weapons, or super speed. It’s a genetic plague. The fight itself has been redesigned  — it’s no longer about powers but about doing the right thing.

Nrama: To that end, how does Hawkeye compare to your past protagonists in this series of books, Punisher and Wolverine? Clearly, he's not as comfortable with killing as the other two, but he's in a rather extreme situation here.

Maberry: Hawkeye, as damaged and isolated as he has become is still far more emotionally well-balanced that either Wolverine or Punisher.

Frank Castle is just plain nuts. He’s crossed a sanity line and increasingly views the world as "them" and "us." Anyone he deems an enemy is a potential target for termination. He’s become as black-and-white as his costume. Oddly, he’s often right when it comes to the baser motives of the enemy. His story was told as a horror tale, and the brilliant artwork of Goron Parlov and moody lighting of Lee Loughridge really sold that vibe.

Wolverine is a world-weary old warrior. His rage issue notwithstanding, I see him as someone with the tortured soul of a poet, but one who has seen to many friends and lowers die. Even with that, he has grown into a leader and a true hero. We told his story as a horror tale blended with elements of noir fiction, which suited Laurence Campbell’s artwork to a tee.

Marvel Universe

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#3 cover.

Hawkeye coasts the fringes of the fight and he hates it. He doesn’t dig being the quipster, but it’s useful for keeping people at arm’s length. He wants to belong but he always feels a little underdressed for the super hero party. In our series, his inability to be in the real heart of the battle is what allows him to have a unique perspective. Leo Fernandez’s artwork perfectly capture’s mood, inner turmoil and growing rage.

Nrama: Simple question, but how much fun is it to write the Avengers, now the stars of the third highest-grossing film in history, as cannibal predators? It's noticeable that the characters on the cover to #1 are the movie roster, minus Hawkeye.

Maberry: I have been an Avengers fan since the middle 1960s. I grew up with them and I’ve imagined a hundred different versions of an Avengers movie. I think I even have a script I wrote back in eighth grade. "Avengers vs. the Mole Man." Truly dreadful, but a work of love. Writing them now is a dream project. Killing them off is odd… a lot of folks think that I get a thrill by killing them off. Actually, I think it’s rather sad. Partly because it’s more likely to be a pathogen and a pandemic that brings them down than another Skrull invasion.

And for the record, I saw the movie four times in the theater and now own the Blu-ray.

Nrama: Let's talk a little more about Marvel Universe vs. The Avengers artist Leandro Fernandez. How has the collaboration been, and what makes him unique from your previous cohorts Goran Parlov and Laurence Campbell?

Marvel Universe

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Maberry: Goran and Laurence each has a somewhat primitive art style. Very moody, with obvious influences from Eisner and Frank Miller. It’s perfect for the gritty horror and crime noir elements of the first two stories. Leandro has a slightly more ornate style  — though still allowing for the primitivistic feeling that drives these stories. He does machinery and fight scenes very well, and he’s really captured Hawkeye’s face and given him a solid, believable personality.

Nrama: Obviously you're busy as a novelist, and you're now returning to comic stores — other than Marvel Universe vs. The Avengers, what should fans of your work be on the lookout for?

Maberry: I’m out now on a national book tour for Flesh & Bone, the third book in my Bram Stoker Award-winning Rot & Ruin series. We’re now in development for a Rot & Ruin movie. I also had my first anthology out as editor, V-Wars, which deals with intensely scary vampires. And my fourth Joe Ledger thriller, Assassin's Code, is still doing really well.

As for new comics… I have a brand new pitch in to Marvel for something I’d like to write. We’ll see how that goes. Fans can find me on Twitter, Facebook and my website.

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