Three issues into Original Sin and we’ve seen the death of the Watcher, the death of a planet, and the death of Nick Fury; and according to series writer Jason Aaron, he’s just getting started. Last week’s Original Sin #3 saw Marvel heroes get close to discovering the smoking gun behind the murder of Uatu, and it ended with Winter Soldier going rogue and killing – decapitating no less – Nick Fury. In next week’s Original Sin #4, Aaron tells Newsarama that readers should expect a cliffhanger just as big, as well as a classic Marvel character joining the series.
Newsarama talked with Aaron about the events of Original Sin #3, the gruesome final scene, as well as the decision-making that brought about the unique trio of the Orb, Dr. Midas and Exterminatrix in the crux of Marvel’s 2014 event series. The writer fills us in on some surprises that happened in the course of writing Original Sin, what’s coming up next in the series, as well as a cover idea that was deemed too bloody – and too revealing – to ever see print.
Newsarama: Jason, what’s it like to be smack dab in the middle of Original Sin? It’s arguably the highest profile book of your career so far, and probably the biggest selling.
Jason Aaron: [laughs] It’s good, I suppose; I don’t know really. It’s not like what I do, how I write, changes depending on the nature of the project. I give each story my all, regardless of if there are a few thousand people reading it or a few hundred thousand. Original Sin is, for me, a murder mystery with a huge cast that plays out on a grand stage.
Nrama: Earlier this month Marvel released Original Sin #3 and gave us a number of clues in the hunt for the Watcher’s killer. How do you think the response has been to the issue in its final form here?
Aaron: The response so far has been great; I’ve read some reviews, but not all. I don’t spend a lot of time on message boards, and I avoid that even more with Original Sin so people’s speculation doesn’t impact the story I’m writing – I’ve still got the last issue to write! [laughs] That being said, the story of Original Sin has been set in stone for quite a while, and if people figure it out ahead of time it doesn’t matter to me.
An important part of any good mystery story like Original Sin is that it’s not just a game of Clue with surprise after surprise after surprise, but the goal is to tell a story in the midst of that. Even once you know the solution to the mysteries, it’s far from the whole story.
Nrama: Since you mentioned Original Sin’s larger story has been set in stone for some time, have there been any moments of ad-libbing that surprised you while doing it?
Aaron: Story-wise, we had a pretty tight outline. Whenever you’re doing one of these big event stories, you have to do the outline ahead of time due to tie-ins and the books that reference this; for the sake of the whole publishing line, Marvel needs to know where the major beats are. I’ve stuck very closely to that outline, but the stuff that surprised me is probably just the character stuff; a lot of the interaction between the different teams of murder investigators in the last few issues has been off the cuff. The Punisher and Doctor Strange stuff, for example, has been a lot of fun; due in part to not having written Frank Castle since my Punisher MAX run. It’s good to get back to that guy, but it’s also a challenge to put that version of the Punisher in with Doctor Strange.
Nrama: I want to ask more about those two, but first we must talk about the prime antagonists of Original Sin as seen in the opening of Original Sin #3: the Orb, Exterminatrix and Dr. Midas. The latter two are Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones creations from the great Marvel Boy series; what led you to utilizing them in Original Sin?
Aaron: I always liked Dr. Midas and Exterminatrix, and have been looking for a place to use them for years now. They were going to be in other stories before this but it didn’t come to be for one reason or another. When we were putting Original Sin together, we knew we wanted a group of villains to rob the Watcher. At one point Tom Brevoort put together a huge list of Marvel universe villains – I remember the U-Foes being considered at one point, so it was a long list. I was the one that added those two to the list, and when we eventually decided to do a smaller group of villains rather than a huge team they were left standing. I liked the idea of keeping it small, and in focus with just those two and the Orb.
Nrama: Tell me more about your fascination with them. You’ve used other Morrison creations when you launched Wolverine & the X-Men.
Aaron: Honestly, using Dr. Midas and Exterminatrix is just because I love Marvel boy so much; it’s one of my favorite comics of the past few years. They were among a group of characters that had largely been forgotten. Like you said, I’d brought back some other Morrison creations like Quientin Quire inWolverine & the X-Men. Matt Fraction brought back Fantomex, and Rick Remender did a lot with Uncanny X-Force. For whatever reasons, there’s a group of characters Morrison created which were tremendous, but got lost in the shuffle. I was more than happy to brush them off.
I’ve only met Grant a couple times, but on one of those occasions I asked if he was cool with me, Matt, Rick and the other writers dusting off these old characters and bringing them back. He told me he was excited at us bringing back Quire, Glob Herman, Fantomex, and others like we have.
Nrama: Let me ask about the third piece of the Original Sin suspect pool in the Orb. He’s not a Morrison creation, but he’s no less strange. I remember you using him on a couple of occasions such as in Ghost Rider, Incredible Hulk and Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine but how’d he come up here?
Aaron: It was Tom’s ideally initially to use the Orb; no one will believe me on that, though. Using him is an obvious idea, but something I didn’t think of until Tom mentioned it. Tom’s thinking, rationally so, was that since we were doing a story which revolves around eyeballs being stolen then using a villain who got an eyeball for a head was perfect. I was more than happy to agree with Tom.
Nrama: Agreed. Let’s now get back to the heroes, particularly two heroes whose scenes have been standouts – Doctor Strange and the Punisher. Tom says this was all your idea to pair them up, so can you talk about it?
Aaron: They’re certainly a lot of fun to write together. Putting together a list of heroes for Original Sin was a long process, just like figuring out the villains. Along the way some were taken out, and a few more were added. As things go forward in Original Sin you’ll see that these aren’t a random group of people; there are reasons why these people are the ones called on to investigate this crime.
Once I had the individual heroes chosen, I had to figure out how to split them up into smaller groups. I kind of worked out which pairings and couplings would be fun to write, and for whatever reason I struck upon the idea of Frank and Strange – just because it’s always fun to write characters together that are so different. They come from different worlds, different backgrounds and different perspectives, and I’d think they’d both tell you than honestly they don’t like each other; So in my mind, a perfect combination. So we take the Punisher, this gritty street level guy, and throw him in the midst of Doctor Strange’s world with crazy Steve Ditko-esque other dimensions, dealing with giant netherworld monsters, and that to me was really interesting. We’re not out to change Frank or make him a supernatural version of the Punisher; our goal is to have the street-level Frank Castle come up against and give his perspective on the places Doctor Strange frequents.
Nrama: This might be nitpicking, but I have to ask: In their investigation, Punisher said there are only ten people on Earth, including him, that could’ve made that shot. The comic might not disclose the full list, but do you know in your head who those 10 best marksmen are in Marvel Earth? Is it something you worked out in your head?
Aaron: Yes. I figured that roughly half of the list are characters we’d know from the comics, but the others are some readers don’t know and have flown under the radar.
Nrama: Somehow I hope Lord Deathstrike is on that list, but that’s probably a story for another day.
Getting back to Original Sin #3, let’s talk about that finale: Winter Soldier shooting and then decapitating Nick Fury. Can you talk about plotting out that scene and then coming into writing it and it being so bloody?
Aaron: Yeah, the chopping of the head was always the idea. Actually, I really wanted to have a cover of Winter Soldier holding up Nick Fury’s head but that would have spoiled the issue. But Fury’s decapitation was always the idea; with a big mystery story like this, I think it’s important to have big cliffhanger moments at the end of each issue – to sort of pull the rug out from under things.
Original Sin #3 left on a pretty big cliffhanger, but so will #4; As crazy as this seems, next week’s issue will be just as big.
Nrama: Seeing Nick Fury’s bloodied, brutalized and decapitated was pretty shocking, but it wouldn’t be the first time we’d seen someone we thought was Fury die. In the past that has been used with it being revealed it was Life Model Decoys – can you say if that was indeed Nick Fury?
Aaron: If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t just tell you. Clearly that’s a question to be answered in the book.
Nrama: Sure. Had to ask. Let me ask this, however; what can fans expect coming up in Original Sin #4?
Aaron: I’ll say this: we’ve seen three different groups of characters split off, but in #4 we’ll see them come together for the first time and pool their resources. We also have another character popping up; an existing Marvel Universe character not yet part of the book that’ll be added to the mix. And like I said, we get another pretty surprising ending.