‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the Avengers Tower, not a creature was stirring – except Captain America.
In December’s Avengers Annual #1, Kathryn Immonen and David Lafuente are telling an extra-sized Christmas story about Captain America alone at Avengers Tower on Christmas Eve. But it’s not all eggnog and cookies, as the duo are promising some unusual Christmas surprises for the star-spangled hero. This one-off story mixes the twin traditions of classic Marvel annuals and Holiday specials in comics, along with one more: Die Hard. But if you’ve read this duo’s work before in Patsy Walker: Hellcat or A+X, you know it’s more than that.
Newsarama: Patsy Walker: Hellcat reunion! Alright! How did you two get to reunite here in Avengers Annual #1?
Kathryn Immonen: When editor Jake Thomas asked if I’d be interested in taking a swing at this project, the first thing I said was, “Yes, please,” immediately followed by “Can we get David?” We then threw ourselves on the mercy of the good people in talent scheduling. I’m so happy it worked out.
It’s funny that you say Hellcat reunion because there’s more than a little truth in that. I think the chances of us ever doing a follow up to that miniseries are slim to none but David and I are determined to recapture the magic wherever we can.
Also, Santron will always be #1 but I guess that was technically a Marvel Holiday Special.
David Lafuente: Team Hellcat back with a vengeance. At that moment Jake and Kathryn were discussing Avengers Annual #1 I was wrapping up a story with Max Bemis for November’s A+X #14 and I had nothing lined up next, so I was available. Good timing.
It's great to be working together again. Ever since we did the Patsy Walker: Hellcat miniseries we've been trying to find opportunities to repeat collaboration but we've been quite busy with other things. We did get to do a short story featuring Iron Fist and Doop a few months ago in A+X #5 and while it was fantastic, it was very short too. I'm glad we are doing this longer piece now. Working with Kathryn is truly a pleasure.
We haven't managed to get an ongoing as creative team so far but la noche es joven...
Nrama: The night is indeed young… but it’s not a silent night. This is a Christmas themed issue, right?
Immonen: The initial brief was “Die Hard in the Avengers Tower” and we jumped from there. I was also inspired by one of my favorite Captain America stories from Tales of Suspense with him alone in the tower, drinking tea and looking at his scrap books before all hell breaks loose. Kirby pajama squad! We’ve got one. Explosions, cheerleaders, robots, tinned peas and fire retardant foam… we’ve got that, too. As far as what it’s about? Family. The gifts you give without even realizing it. The gifts you receive when you least expect it.
Lafuente: "Welcome to the party, pal" was indeed in the first talk about the book. But if you want a straight Die Hard book, you can call a number of other creators who will deliver it. You call Kathryn and I to bring (and this sounds corny but) heart and strangeness. Kathryn has built very entertaining action around an emotional story for the Avengers during a lonely night and the troubles of this new character, Zamira.
In turn, as the artist, I've done my absolute best to do justice to the script. Give it the scope I imagined when reading it and make it all look unique. New takes on known characters, original designs for the brand new ones, etc.
Nrama: On the cover I see this isn’t just Cap on the job, but also the Hulk, Iron Man, Black Widow and a few others. Which Avengers can we hope to see in this issue?
Immonen: All. Of. Them. Not kidding. Sorry, David.
Lafuente: Yeah... thanks a lot, amiga (!). There are a couple "Dave, draw twenty-two characters in this panel, please don't kill me” descriptions, but I'll manage, no problem. We are trying to do one of those annuals that has legs. Stand-alone with a compelling story that has enough of everything to make you want to read it again and again. Hopefully we'll succeed.
Nrama: David mentioned a new character named Zamira, who in the solicits is described as “Meryl Streep with a vengeance.” Her name’s Zamira, but are we talking Death Becomes Her Streep, Iron Lady Streep or something else?
Immonen: All. Of. Them. She’s got a particular problem that she needs to get a handle on. Christmas can be a lonely time of the year for so many people. This kid is literally never alone. David has done such a heartbreakingly good job with this character. The result is strange and hilarious and, frankly, a little perverse in places.
Lafuente: Zamira has a very interesting condition. It makes her both a tragic figure and, like Kathryn says, a hilarious one too. Great opportunities for striking visuals, and I haven't let any of them escape. Sorry for being so cryptic, it's one of those cases in which if you explain too much, you ruin the fun.
Nrama: Correct me if I’m wrong David, but in the cover I see a looser style for you. What are you going for with this issue?
Lafuente: The cover was a tough one, it may look a bit looser because we were trying to convey various different things. Christmas, a somewhat somber tone and also the troupe doing Die Hard stuff. I've done my fair share of covers for team books and I always find them very, very difficult. Often times the concept I would receive is a long list of characters and it makes it difficult to do clean, readable composition. I long for those Jock covers with that feature one character as a spot, five hundred kilometers away, man. But in this book we are actually using all those people, and more, so we needed to tell that to the readers.
Generally speaking, I'm not approaching the book in any different way in terms of style, line art and so on. It can be expected to look like my work on the recent All-New X-Men or the A+X stories I've done. It does feature a lot of things I haven't done before. Characters I've never had the chance to draw before, like Cap (instead of Ultimate Cap) and two of my favorites, Black Widow and Shang-Chi, I had to find my own take for them. It's a very varied, ambitious, fascinating story... so I tried my best to make it go up to eleven.
Nrama: Since this is about Christmas and superheroes – what do you imagine celebrating Christmas is like for people in the superhero business?
Immonen: As always, the greatest strength of, say, Hellcat, is Patsy Walker, not the other way around. So, in that sense, Christmas for Cap is going to be like Christmas for a lot of regular people. A little lonely, a little boring, a little melancholy, a little on fire, a little hand-to-hand combat. With this book, in particular, we do see Cap actively making meaning, directly reaching out to the community but in a small intimate way. But I also think about people like my dad, a military doctor, who spent more than one Christmas not at home, doing the job he was committed to doing. Regular people. That woman behind the cash at the depanneur on Christmas Eve because you need really expensive fake whipped cream? Regular people. But also, heroes.