NYCC 2013: CAP's Psychedelic Super-Soldier: DR. MINDBUBBLE

Captain America #17 cover by Nic Klein
Credit: Marvel
Captain America #16 cover by Nic Klein
Captain America #16 cover by Nic Klein
Credit: Marvel

Captain America has fought endless foes from Nazis to aliens and even rogue super-soldiers – but he’s never fought someone like Dr. Mindbubble.

Teased in September in one of Marvel’s one-word teasers, Dr. Mindbubble makes his formal debut this February in Captain America #16. Described by series writer Rick Remender as “the psychedelic super-soldier,” Dr. Mindbubble is a S.H.I.E.L.D. scientist who used his own twisted mixture of the super-soldier serum and LSD to empower him and set him “an endless trip.” Eagle-eyed fans might recall that Dr. Mindbubble was shown briefly in Remender's Uncanny X-Force run as a statue during a fight scene between Archangel and Apocalypse’s son Genesis, but this Timothy Leary-esque villain makes his flesh-and-blood first appearance in Captain America #16.

Marvel editors Tom Brevoort and Lauren Sankovitch spoke briefly about Dr. Mindbubble and the upcoming events of Captain America during the “Avengers” panel at New York Comic Con Friday, and now we go in-depth with Remender as well as incoming series artist Nic Klein who draws next month’s Captain America #13 and goes full-time with March’s #17.

Newsarama: Rick, in 2014 you’re finally putting a face to the name of Mindbubble – Dr. Mindbubble, that is. What can you tell us about this new character and how he’s connected to Captain America?

Captain America #17 cover by Nic Klein
Captain America #17 cover by Nic Klein
Credit: Marvel

Rick Remender: Dr. Mindbubble is a product of the Weapon Minus program. The Weapon Minus program was devised in the 1950s as S.H.I.E.L.D.’s counter measure to the work being done in the Weapon Plus program.

Nrama: Weapon Plus is the legacy of projects ranging from the original Super Soldier program that gave Captain America his powers, all the way through to Wolverine’s Weapon X and even affecting Deadpool, Fantomex and other heroes and villains through the years.

Remender: Right. The Weapon Minus program is its counter; a separate program run by S.H.I.E.L.D.

In Dr. Mindbubble’s original human identity, Horace Littleton was one of the scientists who worked at Weapon Minus. He wanted to find a more humane way to assassinate people (should it be necessary), and devised a merging of the Super Soldier Serum and LSD. This cocktail gives you a strange batch of powers, and he injected it to himself and made him a nearly omnipotent being of such power and insanity that the only thing tempering him was his remaining sanity and his remaining core philosophies. At his core, Dr. Mindbubble is a bit of a beatnik; someone who was deep into the counter culture. He wanted to see the mainstream establishments fall, but still believed in finding a peaceful loving way to kill those he thought needed to go. 

Over time due to the constant tripping from the formula he went insane, did something terrible, and S.H.I.E.L.D.  had to lock  him up in a giant vault in the Hub base that is in the Grand Canyon. So Dr. Mindbubble was caught and caged around 1967-8 and hasn’t been seen since.

Nic Klein: The cool thing about Dr. Mindbubble is that he doesn’t look like a villain; he doesn’t look threatening at all. He looks like a trippy, freaky weird guy who if you saw on the street you’d make a big circle around him. If you saw someone dressed like this, you’d think he escaped from somewhere. By the looks of him, Cap could floor him with one punch. Dr. Mindbubble feels like Timothy Leary mixed with Willy Wonka, but he’s pretty frigging dangerous because of his powers and what he does to people.

Page from Uncanny X-Force #18 by Jerome Opena & Dean White.
Page from Uncanny X-Force #18 by Jerome Opena & Dean White.
Credit: Marvel

Nrama: So Dr. Mindbubble has been under lock and key for much of the modern Marvel Universe. How’s a guy with so much power been such a secret?

Remender: Like I said, he’s been in a giant S.H.I.E.L.D. prison since the late 1960s. He’s been frozen, locked up, kept away. S.H.I.E.L.D. considers him the most dangerous of all the Weapons, and put him on ice. And in the terms of current Marvel Universe continuity with the sliding timescale, in the 1960s when Dr. Mindbubble was around there weren’t any superheroes that we know of except Nick Fury.

Nrama: I know you want to leave some things to be revealed in the comic books themselves, but just how does Captain America come across Dr. Mindbubble?

Remender: Because we’re talking so far ahead in the series, I can’t say much. I think it’s safer to say that the psychedelic super soldier that is Dr. Mindbubble is at odd purposes with Captain America. Dr. Mindbubble is a man who is perfectly equipped to be the guy to kill super soldiers, and that puts Cap in a real fight for his life. We’re building to something that will shatter Steve Rogers – and shatter Captain America – like it’s never been done before.

Dr. Mindbubble, along with Nuke and Iron Nail, are sort of lynchpins for what’s coming; they’re a trifecta of terribleness. Cap is already damaged from Dimension Z, and what comes next is going to push him to a breaking point.

Klein: Art-wise it’s going to be really crazy because of the stuff going on with Dr. Mindbubble. Definitely larger than life stuff, as well as some cool tech stuff that I’m both looking forward to and dreading drawing at the same time.

Nrama: The design for Dr. Mindbubble is pretty standout. He was originally designed by Jerome Opena for a brief cameo in Uncanny X-Force years ago, but Rick tells me you made some adjustments to the design.

Klein: I just changed a couple things according to notes from Rick. In his original design he had an 18th century-style tuxedo, and we updated that a little bit to coincide with his origin – but he’s still basically the same character.

Captain America #13 cover by Carlos Pacheco.
Captain America #13 cover by Carlos Pacheco.
Credit: Marvel

Nrama: Can you talk about defining the look of this character and not making him too complicated given you’ll be drawing him numerous times panel to panel and page to page?

Klein: That’s one thing you always kind of watch out for when drawing comic books. It shouldn’t be too elaborate. Keep in mind that at the end of the day we have to draw him numerous times, so if you design something super elaborate you’ll hate yourself in the future. I didn’t simplify Jerome’s design because it wasn’t that difficult to begin with; I just updated it from the 18th century tuxedo, and I gave him some real pants instead of tights. 

Nrama: We also have daughter of Captain America’s foe Arnim Zola to deal with, Jet Black. She came back with Steve from Dimension Z in Captain America #11, so where does she stand these days?

Remender: Jet Black is a refugee. She’s the daughter of Arnim Zola, raised in Dimension Z to rule the Earth. Our world is one she was raised to see as hers, and now she’s stuck here as a mere peasant with no authority, no identity and no purpose. Steve was in the same situation back in Dimension Z, so he identifies with Jet Black’s situation. That identification is in no small part the reason Cap has sort of adopted her and taken care of her. At the same time, Steve is questioning a lot about himself and his life. Jet Black has a very different perspective on the world; a very different philosophical base. She was raised in a very “survival of the fittest”-type mentality by her father. She was raised to be a warrior and a queen. Her perspective starts to seep into Steve, because of this unique bond they have with Dimension Z. There’s very few people Steve can talk with about what happened to him, but with Jet Black he can talk about Ian and his experience in Dimension Z.

In a way, Steve Rogers is in the same situation that made Frank Castle the Punisher. He’s lost Sharon and Ian, lost his family, only to a super villain. And no, he’s not going to become the Punisher [laughs].

Nrama: Rick, for this upcoming arc with Dr. Mindbubble, you’re working with Pascal Alixie on #16 and then Nic officially begins his run as the new series artist in #17. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this Is the first time you’ve worked with either of them besides a cover Nic did for a Punisher book you did.

Remender: Right. Pascal is amazing, and we’re lucky to have him, but he’s only on for one issue. Nic’s been a buddy of mine for years, and we’ve always talked about working on something together.

Klein: I met Rick years ago at New York Comic-Con in 2009 because we have mutual friends. I liked Rick’s work, and I later found out he liked mine. We’ve wanted to work together, but never did. I took on Captain America #13 as a fill-in as I had just done an issue of Thor: God of Thunder and had some time. Once I turned in a few pages, everyone at Marvel liked it and asked if I wanted to draw the book on a regular basis.

Captain America #14 cover by Carlos Pacheco
Captain America #14 cover by Carlos Pacheco
Credit: Marvel

Remender: I just received his Dr. Mindbubble cover for Captain America #17, and it’s pretty amazing. Nic is doing issue #13, the Nuke issue, and is coming back with #17 as the series artist. Having seen Nic and Dean together on Captain America #13 I can comfortably say readers are in great hands.

Pascal is drawing Captain America #16, which will cue up the events that’s coming in #17 and after. It will also begin to bubble the greater threat of Red Skull and his S-Men.

Nrama: Nic, people may not know this but you’re German. Growing up in Germany, how do you see Captain America as a character?

Klein: I don’t know why, but I’ve always really liked Cap. It’s weird because I’m not American, and he’s a very patriotic character. Cap embodies all the good qualities of America and stands for it. He’s a very genuine, very pure and down to earth. He doesn’t talk bullshit – if he says something, you know he stands behind it. He’s an everyman that’s true to his believe, which is cool for a character. I also liked his costume; it’s so outrageously patriotic with the stars and the stripes, the star on the chest and the “A” on the forehead. It’s fun to draw.

Nrama: And what made taking on Captain America as its new series artist something you wanted to commit to? You like the character, but was it also the chance to work with Rick?

Klein: Rick writes a pretty tight script, and that can be pretty daunting at first. But he’s really invested into the story, and I like Rick’s characterizations. In the fill-in issue I drew, Captain America #13, it has some great character moments and quiet scenes that are lacking in superhero comics sometimes. But at the same time, it’s also epic. With Dr. Mindbubble, Rick has these really crazy weird moments in his script that hopefully I’ll translate to look the same.

Credit: Marvel Comics

I’m always excited to work with different authors, especially those that I haven’t worked with before. With Rick, I don’t think consciously about the nuts and bolts of working with someone beforehand. but I have Rick’s Uncanny X-Force, Last Days of American Crime, and others here on my bookshelf. I read comics like everyone else, and I just try to take what the writers, in this case Rick, give me and make the best of it. The only way it can be better if I can get along with the writers with added communications. For Captain America I’ve talked to Rick on Skype a couple times since we started. Even if it’s not always about work and we’re shooting the s**t or nerding out, talking with him gives me a sense of being on the same page, which is really important to me.

Remender: On a craft level he has it all; he is someone who knows how to tell a story, and knows how to make it exciting and interesting. Nic can bring the action, the emotion and the right camera angles down to things like spotting blacks; he’s the kind of artist I look for in a collaborator.

But beyond that, he’s just an “A”-level artist; as good as they come. His cover work is absolutely jaw-dropping. Just wait until readers see the covers to Captain America #16 and #17; it’s beautiful stuff.

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