Like many of the incoming Marvel NOW! creative teams, Rick Remender is in something of a tough spot. He's coming on board as the ongoing writer of Captain America with a new #1 in November, following the eight-year stint of Ed Brubaker — whose tenure was one of the most acclaimed, influential and newsworthy eras in the character's 70-plus year history.In response, Remender is planning a very different approach, and is emphasizing sci-fi and horror in contrast to Brubaker's espionage-heavy stories. He's also got the revered art team of John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson and Dean White on his side, who are joining him for a story that explores both Cap vs. Arnim Zola in the present day, along with copious insight into Steve Rogers' formative years. Newsarama talked Captain America with Remender, and got his thoughts on how it's very different from his past Marvel work, why Arnim Zola is scarier than you think and the unique role that original Avenger Hank Pym will play in the series. Newsarama: Rick, for the bulk of your time at Marvel, you've focused on books starring flawed characters — certainly Punisher, Flash Thompson in Venom, the entire cast of Uncanny X-Force and even Rogue and Scarlet Witch in Uncanny Avengers. But Captain America is almost defined by being unambiguously "good." Was that something that attracted you to taking over the book?
Rick Remender: The strength of Steve's character is the reason I wanted to write him, and it is such a wonderful departure from my other Marvel work. It's something that I'm very fascinated and attracted to in his character, which led to my wanted to develop how he became this person. I think it's something that we all take for granted, that Steve grew up through some rough circumstances, and was the 98-pound weakling who was going to go fight World War II, and you just move forward from there. But the big question mark when I took this over was, "How did he get to be that?" You're not just born that way. "I'm born super-patriotic, incredibly noble, I'm a great leader, and I always stand back up." No. Nobody is. You might have some fiber at birth, but the reality is, you have to earn that, and you have to learn it. So that's what Steve does growing up in the Lower East Side in the depression era. He earns it. I really wanted to examine that.
It became a very big story. That's not a small thing, earning that. You learn from your parents, you learn from your neighborhood, you learn from your own experiences — where did Steve learn all this, and how did Steve become this person? We're telling that story for the first time, and it really speaks to the fiber of who he is, and it really speaks to the fact that everybody's flawed, but Steve is somebody who was taught that all of the chaos and all of the hardships in life were tests to stand up, opportunities to show his worth and to be a good person. He's just that guy. He's just from that era. He has a powerful moral compass, a belief in God, he’s strives for purity and perfection, has a spine made of steel, and an eternal optimism. He’s all of the things that, as you pointed out, we might not see in most of the characters that I've been writing at Marvel.
I'm glad for it. I think that I get a lot of flack when I go to these shows — people go, "Why do you always kill characters?" I'm like, "I don't know, because I'm writing the Punisher? Because I'm writing Venom, and because I'm writing X-Force? All books with death and violence in the mandate." [Captain America] is a complete shift in what I've been doing at the company, and I'm really enjoying writing it. Tonally, we're still putting Steve through the paces, and we're changing his life — by issue #10, Steve's life is changed, for good. We're doing some things that really speak to him, and not just things that you've seen in the past. It's a lot of new ideas, a lot of new characters, and at the same time we're going to elevate Zola into something really scary and big. Zola's going to do some terrible things, and have a real impact on the Marvel Universe.
Nrama: Yeah, it definitely looks like one of your stated goals is taking Zola — who certainly is a very memorable visual, but not necessarily a characters always treated like a major thread — to the next level. What inspired that choice?
Remender: He's a Nazi biofanatic. He's Mengele. He’s a monster. He’s a guy who sees life as clay for him to play with. He doesn't care about you, he doesn't care about your family — he cares if he can take you and mix you with a turtle and grow something new out of that. And he sees it as art. And he has a much bigger plan than ever before.
He has long goals. He creates, with own genetic material, children. He wants to see himself propagated. He has all the same ego that a normal person has. When we reveal his ultimate scheme, and what he's up to, and what he's doing, I think it's pretty exciting. This is at its core, a perfect villain. What Kirby has managed to do here is create something that's horrific. This is a Nazi bioengineer who has total disregard for life, other than to experiment with it to serve his goals.
Nrama: And he also appears to be a natural fit for the sci-fi flavor you're going for in this book — which seems both an extension of your own sensibilities, and also a conscious attempt to steer the book in different direction than what Ed Brubaker has been doing for the past eight years.
Remender: Yeah, for sure. I wanted to almost infuse sort of a Silver Age Batman pop to the sensibility. I like when the villains are colorful and eccentric, but then you're like, "Oh, that guy's colorful and eccentric — Holy sh*t, what is he doing!" You want to make sure that it feels like a comic book, but then it goes to some real heavy places. It's not shying away from being a comic book. It's not shying away from big, colorful, eccentric characters and villains, but it's using them in a way that's disturbing. And boy, with Zola, we sure have accomplished that. By issue #7 or #8, it turns into a horror comic.
Beyond just the Zola of it and the science fiction, there is a horror and high-adventure to it all. And then of course, the real heart is seeing Steve grow up, which is the other half of the story.
Nrama: Right, is that presented as a parallel narrative to the modern-day story?
Remender: Yeah. I could already see in my head John Romita, Klaus Janson and Dean White taking a hold of that — the pages that have come in exceed my expectations. It's beautiful stuff, and it's got so much heart. It's a very exciting thing to be able to show and tell a part of such an iconic and famous character's history. To find that it had never really been explored — people would sort of glaze over and jump into World War II. And the World War II stuff has been so developed, and Ed did such amazing work on that, that it seemed to me like, "Hey, look at this — what happened 10 years before that is pretty great, too." What kind of life leads somebody to refuse to not fight in a war when they're just a 98 pound weak kid?
Nrama: And Hank Pym is going to be acting as Cap's Q?
Remender: Yeah, that's the plan. I like the idea that Cap turns to Pym for gadgets again. He used to turn to Stark for gadgets. I was re-reading all of the Stan Lee issues from Tales of Suspense, and in that stuff, it's very James Bond. Nick Fury would give him a bunch of stuff, and the next thing you know, Cap would have rocket boots, and he'd have 15 different gadgets in his pouches. I was like, "Why doesn't he?" I want that! And I want him to have a sci-fi laser gun. I want all these different things.
The more Tom [Brevoort] and I talked about it, it seemed like a really cool idea, to make Pym his Q, and somebody he checks in with on a regular basis, and gets new gadgets and gizmos to add that 007 aspect to the thing.
Nrama: It looks like, at least as far as has been publicly announced at this point, this is the only place Hank will be significantly appearing in thus far in the Marvel NOW! era, so presumably you'll get to explore his character to a good degree.
Remender: When you see where we end with issue #10 — and then when you see the third arc, #10-#15 — the gadgets really start to come into play, and his relationship with Pym really starts to develop more.
I like Pym. My jam when I was an obsessive collector was Tales to Astonish. I had all of the pre-hero stuff, and then I had every issue of that before it became a crossover book. I loved the ridiculousness. I loved the crazy science. That was a huge influence. That and Wally Wood and Frazetta probably are the three things that are most influential in my creating Fear Agent, and starting pulp science fiction back in 2004. Those things were just huge influences to me growing up. We'll be seeing plenty of Cap's other familiar characters, as well.More from Newsarama:
- The 10 Best CAPTAIN AMERICA Stories
- Remender Kicks Off the Marvel NOW! Era with UNCANNY AVENGERS
- Marvel NOW! Next Big Thing: Aaron on THOR: GOD OF THUNDER