PARKER Reflects on CARD/SUPERMAN Controversy, MARVEL Work

Dark Avengers

#190 cover.

It's something of a transition time in Jeff Parker's comic book-writing career right now — Dark Avengers ends at Marvel in May, and he recently wrapped up his Willow: Wonderland miniseries at Dark Horse, but new things are on the horizon like his story in digital-first DC anthology Adventures of Superman, a hinted-at-but-as-yet-unannounced Oni graphic novel, and a digital announcement teased for this week. There are still some constants in his schedule, like Red She-Hulk, currently ongoing at Marvel.

As has been highly publicized, Parker and artist Chris Samnee's Adventures of Superman story because inadvertently mired in controversy last month when the print version was solicited with a story written by Orson Scott Card. Boycotts and petitions were launched, due to the Ender's Game writer's hardline stance against gay rights. Chris Sprouse, scheduled to illustrate Card's story, left the project, meaning that Parker and Samnee's story will instead share page space with Jeff Lemire, Justin Jordan and Riley Rossmo.

Newsarama talked to Parker about the Card/Superman situation, plus the end of Dark Avengers, the latest in Red She-Hulk, and some teases towards what's next.

Red She-Hulk

#66 cover.

Newsarama: Jeff, with Red She-Hulk, you've gotten to explore Betty Ross in the role of solo protagonist for the first time in her 50-year existence. How has your experience been writing the book in its first year? And how has your own perspective on the lead character changed (if at all) during your stint so far?

Jeff Parker: This is a great time to write, as I hope comes through in the final work. I'm still with the basic take I had on Betty Ross, but now I see how her worldview extends in more subtle ways and other areas. I wanted her to have that element of wildness, and definitely be the woman who takes no crap, and it's forced me to see how she has to drive the plot in unexpected ways. She's not always rational, she's not a role model. She's a force of nature.

Nrama: Prior to Red She-Hulk launching last year, other than Captain Marvel, there were very few Marvel books starring a female character. Now (and in the coming months) there are several more, including Journey Into Mystery and all-female team books like Fearless Defenders and the upcoming Brian Wood and Olivier Coipel X-Men. Do you feel that, maybe, slowly but surely, the ongoing issue of lack of diversity inside superhero comics is getting a little better, at least in terms of gender? On a similar note, have you noticed more female readers picking up Red She-Hulk than they might have in the book's previous incarnation?  

Red She-Hulk

#65 cover.

Parker: I have heard from more women and younger readers, which is really rewarding. They tend to like that she isn't there to be lusted over, that she has adventures and is curious about the world. And it seems to me the diversity is improving gradually, as you say. I'd like it to go way further, I like writing women characters.

Nrama: An interesting aspect of Red She-Hulk is how you've been able to incorporate several other characters into the mix, obviously Machine Man, and Jennifer Walters and Man-Thing are both playing roles in the current arc. For you, how well does the series (and the "Route 616" story specifically) lend itself to weaving in different faces — and, it appears, locations — from all over the Marvel Universe?

Parker: Machine Man is a perfect foil for Betty, because he doesn't expect her to be someone she's not, he just deals with the person who's there. And that lets him complement her to making a really potent team.

Jennifer Walters (She-Hulk!) comes in with an agenda, and that will be revealed later in the story. As you might expect, I'm happy to pick up with Man-Thing again after we last saw him in Thunderbolts/Dark Avengers. They all enter the story at different points on this tour through the Marvel world, hence the "Route 616," which if some don't know, is a reference for years to this universe's place in a greater multiverse.

Dark Avengers

#189 cover.

Nrama: Your other current Marvel book, Dark Avengers, is reaching its planned ending in May with #190 which means, if math is correct, there will be 16 issues of the "Dark Avengers" era of the series. An impressive number, and actually the same amount as the original Bendis/Deodato Dark Avengers — did you originally plan with that type of length in mind? It definitely has read like there's been a finite, but still fairly long-term, plot playing out.

Parker: Yeah, I knew I had until #190 to run with the characters, so rather than have them in a couple of short pieces after the Thunderbolts story wrapped, I chose to do one fat story in a world where they aren't the worst people for a change. Some profound developments happen for a few of the team, like U.S. Agent getting limbs (but at what price?). The world of this story has so much involved history of its own and design work that Neil Edwards has handled like a champ. That man is a pleasure to work with, he fears no challenge.

Nrama: The book started life as Thunderbolts, and obviously it transformed to something very different, tittle and all. How did you enjoy writing the Dark Avengers phase of the series? It seemed, by nature of the story, to be a unique opportunity to do a Marvel book in a very different way than usual. And this is probably a very specific and very goofy question, but when you look at it all now, do you see your respective time on "Thunderbolts" and "Dark Avengers" as parts of a whole, or two distinct entities?

 

Parker: Again, a large chunk of Dark Avengers time was really Thunderbolts time, but I liked being able to bring in the next wave of lead characters as the out and out bad guys, so we see where they're coming from. Thunderbolts was such a great experience, and I love hearing readers at conventions talk about their favorite parts of the run. I just started putting up some of the scripts from it on my www.parkerspace.com site, in the Scripts section.

Nrama: During both phases of the book, you got to write a large number of colorful and obscure-ish characters. Are there any that you'll particularly miss writing as Dark Avengers wraps up? Or any whose contributions to their ongoing history you're particularly proud of?

Parker: I miss Boomerang who is coming back in something else soon, so I'll read that, and Satana and Mr. Hyde already. I feel we got to flesh them out a great deal and I especially liked watching readers opinions turn — lots of people who didn't want to read about The Underbolts were later outraged when their story was going to end.

 

It's been very cool to pick back up with John Walker (U.S. Agent) as a lead in DA, since he stayed as a supporting character throughout Thunderbolts. And Moonstone! She always manages to not get left behind, has to stay in the spotlight. Oh yeah, I'm also very happy Kev Walker and I got to tell the origin of Ghost and get into the life of Songbird. Plus I got to work with friend Declan Shalvey on all his initial Marvel work — very fond memories for me.

Nrama: Pretty absolutely sure you're sick of being asked about this, so apologies in advance, but can't help but ask about your Adventures of Superman story. Not sure how much you want to speak to this, but how much of a relief was the announcement that the Orson Scott Card-written story — given that its very existence inspired boycotts — isn't seeing print in the same issue as the one by you and Chris Samnee?

 

Parker: It was a big relief. This book is a chance to bring in lots of new, lapsed and younger readers and it was a shame that it was being associated with such contentious stuff. Like a lot of people, I didn't know about Card's vitriol on gay rights before that — I don't exactly check the National Organization for Marriage's website regularly, and I'm sure the editors didn't know either. Not ideal circumstances for a launch, but at the same time, people got fired up because it was centered on Superman. Because we associate ideals about ourselves and our country with him — he matters a lot. There's nothing wrong with comics being one of the places we hash out things and figure out the way forward, it's an artform that can rise to the task.

Nrama: Beyond that, is there anything else that you're currently working on that readers should know about?  You've hinted at an Oni graphic novel in the works.

Parker: Yes, but we can't announce that yet. And Thursday something also digital is going to be announced, you might want to get back up with me for that separately, because it's something many people have waited for a long time!

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