NOVA’s Original Sin: The Bloody Origin of His Black Nova Father

Nova #18 cover/Original Sin Teaser by Paco Medina
Credit: Marvel Comics

The newest Nova, Sam Alexander, came into comics with a bang inthe event series Avengers Vs. X-Men, and now the claws of Marvel’s next major event, Original Sin, are ripping its way into the young hero’s life. Beginning in June’s Nova #18, Nova will find out the secret he’s been pining for since he became a hero – the fate of janitor father who led a secret life as a Nova – and finds that some secrets are secrets for a reason. Described as a “personal story” by series writer Gerry Duggan, Nova #18 and #19 will unveil the true story of Jesse Alexander, the black ops Nova corpsman whose helmet Sam found and began his own life as a hero. And although Nova’s are known to be bathed in starlight and space dust floating through space, Sam Alexander will find his father’s life as a Black Nova had him bathed in something else: blood.

Nova #18 cover/Original Sin Teaser by Paco Medina
Nova #18 cover/Original Sin Teaser by Paco Medina
Credit: Marvel Comics

Just because Nova is one of the youngest heroes in Marvel’s superhuman entourage doesn’t mean he doesn’t mean he’s spared from Original Sin, and Duggan and artist David Baldeon plan to made Alexander face that danger – and the death of those close to him – in this two-part arc this summer.

Newsarama: Nova’s the freshest face superhero in Marvel, but nevertheless he’s brought into Original Sin – even being a key figure in the #0 issue. What’s coming up for Sam here in his own series?

Gerry Duggan: First and foremost for Sam with this is the loss of his friend, the Watcher, which will make Original Sin a much more personal story for him. Everyone is going to receive some personal blowback from the big reveals of the secrets Uatu kept, but Sam is a young character and hasn’t been around long enough to have real skeletons in his closet. But that doesn’t mean the Nova Corps doesn’t, or specifically, his father doesn’t.

Nova ties into Original Sin in issues #18 and #19 with a personal story dealing with Sam’s father Jesse, the Black Novas, and how Sam fits into all of this. And while Sam is being bombarded with all of this new information, he’s also not really getting an opportunity to properly grieve for the death of his friend. There’s not many people who would consider themselves close enough to the Watcher to call him a friend, but Sam certainly does. Uatu’s going to be missed very much by Sam.

Nrama: Can you tell us more about how this secret about his father’s past, and the Black Novas, pulls Sam into something?

Duggan: Sam may not fully understand the secret as its being unearthed, and that may lead him to some other misadventures. With a character like Sam and a book like Nova, when he makes a mistake, it presents an opportunity for some fun and adventure. Some of the secrets revealed by Original Sin’s events are pretty cut and dried, but for Sam his is open to interpretation… or misinterpretation.

And the nice thing is that even though Sam is the last Nova, he does have space-faring friends he can talk to about these things to find out more.

Nova #19 cover (Original Sin Tie-in) by Paco Medina
Nova #19 cover (Original Sin Tie-in) by Paco Medina
Credit: Marvel Comics

Nrama: I want to ask about those space-faring friends, but first let’s talk about Sam’s father, Jesse. He’s out of the picture currently, but you nor the previous Nova writers ever said if he was dead, on the run, or what exactly his status is. Did I miss something?

Duggan: He could be dead, but Sam’s hoping for the best. He’s missing in action, let’s say, but could have been killed.

When readers last saw Jesse, he was marooned in outer space. These two issues of Nova coming up will provide a little more insight and clarity into Jesse’s adventure.

Speaking about Original Sin, I must say that there is something kind of special that happens in Original Sin #0 by Mark Waid, which guest-stars Sam. Anyone interested in Sam or the Watcher should not miss that issue; Mark, yet again, did a really wonderful job. Nova starts immediately after that, moving forward with Jesse’s story and Sam’s. His status will change; it has to change.

Nrama: Getting back to that mention of Sam’s “space-faring friends,” looking back to the last issue, #14, I was excited to see the surprise appearance of some old cosmic characters – namely Cosmo and the severed Celestial head, Knowhere, from the previous Guardians of The Galaxy run. How’d it come about you decided to loop these two into the series?

Duggan: It’s been fun. Sam is obviously a rookie and had never met Cosmo before, and didn’t know about Knowhere. He overheard one of the villains say that he was “off to Knowhere,” but he misunderstood that to mean “nowhere” and not a physical place. It wasn’t until Beta Ray Bill clarified that “maybe you know more than you think you did.”

Speaking of Beta Ray Bill, he is this great fun character who has always been someone that excited my imagination. To be able to use him as a guest star, it turns his partnership with Sam into a really fun team-up because on the surface they don’t seem like a good fit; that’s fun. Odd couples sometimes provide the best opportunities for humor. And what Sam gets out of his friendship with Beta Ray Bill is seasoning and a little bit of perspective; Bill tries to leave Sam with a message of hope, and I think Bill is someone who inspires Sam… and he’s tremendously fun to write.

Nova #16 cover by Paco Medina
Nova #16 cover by Paco Medina
Credit: Marvel Comics

Their adventure wraps up in Nova #16, but there is a possibly that they might re-team later. Stephen Wacker gave me some good advice about writing Beta Ray Bill with Sam, and that was not to lose sight of Nova being Sam’s book. What that means is that with Bill you have someone with all the powers and responsibilities of Thor, but it was important to have it be a good “back and forth” with Sam and serve Sam’s story. I think that it came out well, and I’m proud of what we did.

Sam’s story changes a little bit after he returns to Earth, and we heap on some Sam Alexander problems to add to what he’s already facing as Nova… and then there’s the Original Sin problems we discussed. Bringing those all down on Sam who is this great, young, inexperienced hero, gives a lot of potential for stories. I compare it to those early stories of Peter Parker as an inexperienced hero just trying get by, and it’s been a real gift to be able to write Nova and do similar types of scenarios.

Nrama: Speaking broader, since you took over the book you’ve taken to Sam’s sense of wonder with ease – which is far different than your other series star, Deadpool. How do you get in that zone to get that authentic kid-like admiration for new things?

Duggan: Sometimes you look at a document that’s open on the computer and the deadline is creeping up, and the words just flow out – or they don’t. I don’t want to jinx it, but every time I open up a document for Nova I find myself very productive. The flow is good, partly because I have a young son of my own who is interested in space. So we built a Lego Mars Curiosity Rover together, and we look at images from the Hubble telescope. He’s almost five, and to have the opportunity to be around someone who has that pure sense of wonder is invigorating. No one has given him a reason to feel stepped on yet; when he thinks something is cool, he says it; he hasn’t heard that it’s not school. He hasn’t been to school and been around other kids, and experiencing things with him, and through him, has been a great gift for me. I try to excite him about science, nature, outer spaces, and rockets especially, and I feel that he’s my secret weapon with writing Nova; I’m trying to channel the fun of being around my son into writing Sam.

Nova #17 cover by Ed McGuinness
Nova #17 cover by Ed McGuinness
Credit: Marvel Comics

With Deadpool, it’s a little different. When I have a not-so-great day, it’s great to use Deadpool as a punching bag to get that out.

Nrama: Last question; I, like many of our readers, have been pouring over the new images, new video, and new information being revealed about the Guardians of the Galaxy movie coming in August. One of the surprises coming out of it is the appearance of members of what looks to be the Nova Corps as background characters. As the resident writer of Nova in comics for Marvel, what do you think about the movie?

Duggan: I think Guardians of the Galaxy is a movie people are going to underestimate – or maybe not. The movie is going to be really fun and a special film, and although right now everyone is talking about Avengers: Age of Ultron and the fun character teased in Captain America; The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy is still the movie coming up that has me the most excited.

Director James Gunn is a hell of a film maker, and I do know the Nova Corps is in the movie. As for what that might mean for the future for Nova, your guess is as good as mine. I don’t have any secret knowledge to share, but I would love, love, love to see [our] Nova rocket onto the big screen one day. I think Nova is a perfect concept for film; a young inexperienced hero is something we haven’t really seen too much of at Marvel. Part of the fun of the first Iron Man movie was seeing Tony Stark fumble around in the beginning. Sam is a kid, and watching a kid make a mistake and then learn from it would be fun.

Nrama: And I’m hoping to see a Nova helmet on sale as a tie-in to Guardians of the Galaxy.

Duggan: That would be great.

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