DeConnick on AVENGERS ASSEMBLE: It's Not All Naked Avengers

 

Compared to the epic scale of the current Jonathan Hickman-written runs of Avengers and New Avengers, the stories of Avengers Assemble are somewhat smaller in scope. And that's something that series writer Kelly Sue DeConnick has embraced, injecting her first three-issue arc with lighthearted touches like a bet between Tony Stark and Hulk resulting in both characters taking a stroll down Broadway, sans clothes.

But things are getting considerably darker in the current two-issue arc that starts with Avengers Assemble #12 (on sale now), focusing on Black Widow and illustrated by Pete Woods. As DeConnick explains, Black Widow isn't a silly character — though a bickering Spider-Woman and Hawkeye are along for the ride —  and the plot delves into some serious territory (lizard people are also involved).

Newsarama talked with DeConnick to learn more about the story and the future of Avengers Assemble.

Update: Thanks to USA Today, we know a big part of that future: "The Enemy Within," a five-part crossover between Avengers Assemble and Captain Marvel, both written by DeConnick, starting in May. It starts with a one-shot that month titled Avengers: The Enemy Within (illustrated by Scott Hepburn), and deals both with Carol Danvers' recenetly discovered brain lesion, and the return of a Mar-Vell villain.

"She needs a good arch-enemy," DeConnick told USA Today. "I wanted someone who could be a real threat to her, a real opposite number. And I found somebody who fits the bill."

 

Newsarama: Kelly Sue, with the Jonathan Hickman-written Avengers titles being so massively huge in just about every sense of the word, it seems that Avengers Assemble is almost the deliberate balance to that. There's action, there are stakes, but it does seem a bit more lighthearted — especially at the end of your first arc — and with maybe a bit more personal conflicts. Was that the stipulated plan, or just where you wanted to go with the book?

Kelly Sue DeConnick: My pitch used a musical metaphor: If Hickman's Avengers titles are prog rock, then this is AC/DC. Three-minute guitar riffs, in and out. Get you pumped up. Fun.

It's not all naked Avengers, and in fact the next arc is significantly darker. It's a Black Widow thing, and Black Widow's just not silly. Jess and Clint are there to lighten things up a little bit, but it's Nat's story.

 

The themes are debt and redemption. We go back to an assassination that Nat was a part of back in the day. It was a man who was working on a weapon of mass destruction, and she starts off the narrative talking about, "If you had the opportunity to go back and kill Hitler, could you do it?" Most people would — most people weigh that in their heads and think, "Yes." To prevent the horrible death of millions, that is something they could or would do. Then she says, "What about Oppenheimer?" What if it's a good man — this man who's a family man, who's kind of a genius, but you know that the product of his genius is going to be used to do something terrible. Could you pull that trigger? And she says, "Yes." "I could, I would, I did, and that, as much as anything, is what makes me the Black Widow." Then we look at the repercussions of that choice, and how she has come to think of it. What made her make that decision then, and how she views it in light of the person that she's become, and the opportunity for redemption that she denied him when she made that choice. And she's forced to confront his family and his wife, and the people who were really hurt by the decision that she made.

 

You get embarrassed when you talk about this stuff — I really cared about it. When I was writing this story, I was like, "This is really complicated, and I think that everyone here is hurting." So she does the best that she can to make it right.

Nrama: And that's a two-issue arc?

DeConnick: Yeah. 40 pages for all of that. There was a point where I questioned that decision.

Nrama: And based on the cover to #13, it also involves Black Widow turning into a lizard person.

DeConnick: Oh, did I forget to mention the lizard people?

 

The weapon of mass destruction that Peter [Anokhin] was working on may have involved some lizard people. Which, you will note, might have a connection to the first arc where there was some lizard people. Maybe I’m obsessed with lizard people. Or… maybe there’s a connection. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

Nrama: So for Avengers Assemble, are you pretty much getting to pick and choose which Avengers you want to use?

DeConnick: I am! It's pretty cool. Everyone keeps asking me who my cast is. I'm like, "No, for real, my cast is the Avengers." There's a big poster that has all of the Avengers on it that hangs in Bendis's basement. I kind of could go over there and throw darts at it, and use that if I wanted to.

It throws people off who just don't think of books that way. There's also this confusion that's like, "Oh, so this is going to be a series of unrelated arcs." No, it's going to be a series of self-contained arcs that then contribute to larger stories. There may be an aspect of the first and second arcs that get wrapped up in the fourth arc. Ideally, you can read them alone and enjoy them alone, but if you want to see them as pieces of a quilt, you can.

Avengers Assemble

#13 cover.

Nrama: So you are indeed working a few arcs down the road — some may have been confused since there wasn't an Avengers Assemble issue by you solicited for April.

DeConnick: Two things: I am not a fast writer, and I had some family obligations come up that I had to attend to.

One of the things that Tom offered was that we would take the Age of Ultron issues off my plate, and find another writer for those. And they found Al Ewing, who is a very nice man, and wrote me a really lovely note the other day about it. I haven't read his script, but I have seen the covers, and chatted with him a bit. It looks extraordinary, so I'm really looking forward to reading it.

Nrama: And it's not just two Marvel ongoings you've been working on, it's also getting Pretty Deadly going at Image, and you had the Ghost miniseries at Dark Horse. That's a significant workload.

Avengers Assemble

#14.AU cover.

DeConnick: Yeah. And there's one other project that's ramping up that's not announced. Pretty Deadly's going, but I need to get the machinery turning a little faster, which is all entirely on me.

I've been thinking a lot about my process recently, and the dynamics of my schedule and whatnot. I think I'm getting better. I know I'm getting faster. The trick is getting faster and not sacrificing quality.

Nrama: This is likely something that you've already sick of discussing, but are you officially the first female ongoing Avengers writer?

DeConnick: I've heard that. I think somebody said they confirmed it. I'm not really sure. The person who would really know is Tom Brevoort, and Tom doesn't care. I don't mean that in a jerky way. It was brought up in an interview, and Tom was just not interested. "That may be the case, but that's not why I hired her." Which I get, and I appreciate. I cannot tell you how much I have enjoyed working with him. He’s great.

Avengers Assemble

#14.AU variant cover.

Nrama: It is tricky, because on one hand, if you don't talk about these things, it might not get any better, and if you do harp on it, creators could get pigeon-holed. But there really aren't a lot of females writing superhero comic books right now.

DeConnick: Totally. It's a thing. It's so weird, because I don't want journalists to feel like they're walking through a minefield to talk about it. I go back and forth. The virulent feminist in me wants to talk about it, and wants to talk about culturally, why that's the case.

People tell me things that they have heard said in comic book stores that I'm just like, "Really? In 2013?" It just seems shocking to me. There are people who seem to think that a comic book by a woman is going to be all singing into hairbrushes. I sort of wonder, "Have you actually met a woman?"

Sometimes the calls are coming from inside the house. One of the ugliest bits of sexism that I have encountered in my comic book career has come from another woman. Delightful, let me tell you. And absolutely not one of my peers, thank god.

It is a real thing. At the same time, I don't want to become "the lady that writes the lady books." And I don’t want to become "the lady who only talks about lady issues."

But it’s very odd; this idea that somehow, as a woman, I can't project beyond what it is to be a woman. No one ever said, "Brian Bendis, how could you possibly write a book about Spider-Woman, when you do not have pheromone powers, or breasts?" I manage somehow to write Norman Osborn without being pathological.

Or maybe I didn’t…  

Dun dun DUUUUUUUUN.  

I can't stop with the dun dun DUUUUUUUN, man. I'm sorry. 

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