Young hero Sam Alexander has fast a lot in the past year as Marvel’s new Nova, but as Deadpool co-writer Gerry Duggan takes over the series this winter he’s going to get hammered.
As hinted at in Thursday’s “Hammered” teaser, Beta Ray Bill is coming to the Nova series with some serious questions for the last Nova in the universe (and of course, the mystical hammer Stormbringer in hand). In an earlier interview with Dugganwe learned that one of the first tasks he has for Nova is tracking down the helmets of fallen Novas who came before him, and now Beta Ray Bill comes – but why? Duggan is keeping his cards close to his vest, but we do know one thing: Beta Ray Bill fought beside the previous Nova, Richard Rider, against the Cancerverse in what looked to be his final days in Thanos Imperative.
Newsarama has for you the exclusive first look at Nova #13.NOW featuring the debut of Beta Ray Bill into the series, and we caught up with Duggan to talk more about this guest star, the trials of being Sam Alexander, and the shadow Richard Rider casts over the series.
Newsarama: I have you here today to talk about your upcoming run, and specifically this cover to Nova #13 Marvel just shared featuring Beta Ray Bill hammering down on Nova. What can you say about this wrenching cover?
Gerry Duggan: My first big arc begins in Nova #13 – we use #11 and #12 to build up the seeds of the confrontation, as Sam does a good thing for the wrong people. In doing so, he unwittingly assists the bad guys so Beta Ray Bill comes to Earth and demands some answers.
It’s more than a little dust-up, as miscommunication leads to a pretty fun fight that might surprise some people. That kicks off Nova #13 and is a great jumping-on point for new people. People can get to know Sam pretty quickly. Then in the ensuing arc we follow Sam and Bill into space as they try to clean up Sam’s mess. I’m really excited about this – Paco Medina and Juan Vlasco are fantastic. One again I’m very lucky in collaborators.
If you’ve been reading Jeph Loeb’s and Zeb Wells’ Nova issues then I hope you’ll give my run a chance. We’re having a lot of fun and my measuring stick for doing a good job is if the editorial crew gives me a high five – and they have. We’re having a lot of fun doing this.
Nrama: Beta Ray Bill has fought by Nova before – not this Nova however, but Richard Rider as part of Thanos Imperative – which saw Rider seemingly die. Is that coincidence, or could Beta Ray Bill’s appearance possibly concern his fallen comrade?
Duggan: Some of their sort of shared, similar histories may come up in conversation. I think Bill will be curious about Sam as Nova, and Sam will surely be curious about this guy who look slike he got bitten by a radioactive Asgardian.
Remember, Bill is a fearsome sight. Comics readers sometimes forget how alien his appearance is; if you dropped him down in the middle of a town, say Carefree, Arizona, he would cause a bit of a panic. He looks like a zombie Thor that comes from the backwaters of space.
Bill and Sam will have a lot to talk about, including stuff about their families. And getting to your question, I would be surprised if the subject of Mr. Rider did not come up. How can I tiptoe around that without spoiling things?
Nrama: In the advance solicitations for your run on Nova, each issue has been about dead Novas – from Sam standing on a tower of empty Nova helmets to January’s Nova #12 literally showing a corpse outfitted in a Nova costume. This is a kid’s book, man, what’s going on?
Duggan:Well, here’s the thing: Sam has been hearing about the Nova Corps from his father, but back then he thought his dad was just drunk and telling tall tales. Now that he knows it’s all the truth, finding these helmets is tantamount to unearthing the ghosts of the Nova Corps.
And when you question if Nova is a kids book, I do believe it is; there is sometimes some scary things young folks have to go through. I think the tone we have here in Nova when it comes to death is in the vein of The Goonies and that sort of thing.
I’ll tell you this: what’s coming up will hopefully ground Sam and show him also what he has to live up to. There’s one thing every dead Nova has in common: they sacrificed their life for the Corps for the people they protect. And I think it’s going to be wise if Sam can keep that in the front of his mind. These helmets – and the story of the people who wore them – are lessons and cautionary tales. He’ll glean some information about some of these Novas in terms of the threats they faced, and in the case of one or two of the helmets we’re planting the seeds for future stories that won’t fully pay off for quite a while.
By the time Nova #13 rolls around, Sam will have found a couple helmets and may even be done looking for them for the time being because the experience won’t be pleasurable. It speaks to Sam’s character; the circumstances might be dark, but the only way for him to make it manageable is to keep his wits about him and face it with quips.
Nrama: Even outside of Sam and Richard Rider, we’ve met a variety of other Novas thru-out the Marvel U. Any chance we see some familiar faces on Sam’s search for their helmets?
Duggan: I deliberately wanted to use some Novas we haven’t seen before. I know many of the Novas were trapped in the Cancerverse, and I didn’t think it was necessarily to plant a flag and say these guys were totally KIA. For Sam, it wouldn’t matter; he didn’t know them anyway, so these Novas we’ll be seeing here haven’t been seen before but have given their lives for the Corps in different ways.
Nrama: You’ve quickly become a household name at the House of Ideas with Deadpool, but taking over Novawill be the first time you’re writing an ongoing series on your own. What’s it like to be on your own, akin to Sam, out there finding your way with Nova?
Duggan: You know, it’s pretty exhilarating. Obviously I’ve been a part of a real wonderful team on Deadpool; and when I say wonderful, I mean it. Marvel has gone out of their way to pair Brian Posehn and I with some pretty wonderful and sometimes unconventional choices; in the case of Nova, I’m getting dropped into a machine already humming with some really amazing artists with Paco, Juan and our colorist David Curiel. These pages are a joy to look at. And editors Steven Wacker and Devin Lewis have taken good care of me, and are another case off where I feel fortunately to have the collaborators I do. Even though I’m the one whose name you see in the “written by” credit, I’m one of many people contributing to the book. Marvel is taking real good care of me and making me look good.
I’m living the dream, man. This was something I privately hoped to do, but I never really voiced it in fear of dying of embarrassment in case it didn’t happen. It’s a thrill to play in this sandbox. And I’m very fortunate that readers have responded to my stuff ni the way they have; I’m grateful to anyone who picks up the book. Sometimes I see on Twitter people talking about deciding to start buying the book for my run, and that means the world to me.
Nrama: You’re coming into the cosmic side of the Marvel U just as Infinity wraps up; does that major league space epic and all the new worlds and characters it put into motion give you something more to explore with the Nova series?
Duggan: Yeah, I think so. Obviously there is an emphasis on all things cosmic at Marvel, and readers should look forward to more threats being woven into and coming out of Nova later on in 2014. There’s going to be some pretty important things happening in the book. Not just for Sam and his family and being the last Nova, but also bigger characters in the Marvel U. Things will happen here that will reverberate outward.
I’ve described Nova in the past as a goalie, trying to keep trouble away from Earth. But nobody’s perfect and sometimes things get through. [Laughs]
If you’ll permit me a sort of arrogance to deliver a closing argument for my work on Nova, let me say this. The fun thing about Nova is that he’s going to have as many Sam Alexander problems as he is Nova problems. He’ll return to Earth and need a break; but that’s when his Sam problems kick in. He’ll be dealing with a lot of personal stuff, as his father was up and raptured as far as anyone knows. So Sam’s mom is now the sole breadwinner and the Alexander family will have to go through some painful transitions. His mom will get a job, and Sam will have to take up some babysitting jobs.
My favorite Spider-Man stories going back were the ones wherePeter would sell a picture to J. Jonah Jameson but he takes nothing home because he still owes the Bugle for a loan. Right now I’m writing an issue of Nova with hot aliens, babies, giant robots and alien pirates, but Sam’s stuff on Earth will make all that seem like a walk in the park. It’s fun telling these classic kind of Marvel stories.