Marvel’s demolishing cyborg Deathlok is back, with a new host, a new direction, and a new lease on life thanks to the television series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Earlier this month, the New York-based comic publisher announced it is working on a new standalone Deathlok series springing out of the character’s new-found television popularity, and they’ve tapped comics’ defacto espionage writer Nathan Edmondson to do it. Working alongside Marvel veteran Mike Perkins, the duo will spin a story of a new man in the Deathlok cybernetics – Army medic Henry Hayes -- and the twists and turns that replaced the leg he lost due to an IED but gave him something possibly worse.
Newsarama: Nathan, you're quite a busy man between creator-owned comics, the Splinter Cell graphic novel, Black Widow, The Punisher and working on making your creator-owned comics into television and films. What's special to you about Deathlok that you wanted to add it to your workload?
Nathan Edmondson: Well, Splinter Cell I finished over a year ago. I write six issues ahead on everything else (so I can focus on film and TV writing). But yes, I’m very careful about what projects I take on, and Deathlok was one that I mulled over a bit — I had to be sure that our approach would be original, necessary, and meaningful to us as creators. I didn’t want to write a spin-off book, I didn’t want to retread any ground, and I certainly didn’t want to feel that I had a book that was too similar to something else I was working on. [Marvel Senior Vice President of Publishing Tom] Brevoort and I powwowed about all of that and we realized we were on the same page: Marvel wanted to publish the story we wanted to tell. Our take is something new, and I think it’s a story that Marvel needs, and the time is certainly right with Deathlok more popular than ever due to his TV depiction.
Nrama: In the past ten years Deathlok has been a supporting character at best in comics, with talk of a full miniseries created but never published. But with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., that's all changed - in working with Marvel, how does the publisher view Deathlok now?
Edmondson: I think most people at Marvel, at least most with whom we’ve talked Deathlok, have always been fans of the character, and are excited that the timing is ripe to tell more Deathlok stories, hopefully to a wider audience than ever before.
Nrama: In The Hollywood Reporter’s article, you've stated this is a new person with the Deathlok cybernetics - Henry Hayes. Why someone new, and not Mike Peterson from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or another previous Deathlok?
Edmondson: To offer something really new, really original, really our own, I felt early in the process that we needed to come at this universe through a new door. Henry Hayes was that door, and as you’ll learn in the series, Michael Collins is still very much a part of the picture. As for Michael Peterson, the J. August Richards-portrayed character, the comics don’t draw from the show at all. In fact, after we began working (we finished the outline and started work months before Peterson’s character arc played out in the show) we saw lots of happy similarities between our version and the show’s version, but they were not intentional similarities.
Nrama: So we’ll be seeing Michael Collins, a previous Deathlok in this series? What about others?
Edmondson: Yes indeed. Stay tuned.
Nrama: We're dancing around Deathlok himself here - who is Henry Hayes and how'd he get the onus of being Deathlok?
Edmondson: Hayes was an army medic who lost his leg in an IED explosion. Thanks to a company called Biotek, he was given a new leg, and fixed up in other places. He now works for Doctors Without Borders, frequently traveling to war zones to help with the wounded.
Or at least, that’s what his memory tells him. Biotek might have done more to him than just fix his leg...
Nrama: You've said that in some respects this could be described as a mix of Manchurian Candidate and Robocop. That speaks not just to guns and action, but also political intrigue. Can you speak to that?
Edmondson: Hayes is the unwitting operative behind major geopolitical changes around the world. He’s affected the world in ways we’ve seen in Bond films, and he has no idea. There are major politics as a cause and effect of his actions.
Nrama: Original Sins #1 is on stands now, including your 10 page story with Mike that now sits as a prequel/prelude of sorts to October's full launch. What can you say for those who've read that to bridge them four months to October's Deathlok #1?
Edmondson: Pick up Black Widow, The Activity, Punisher and Dancer, among my other work in the meantime!
Nrama: That being said, this seems quite different from Black Widow and The Punisher, but shares some commonality with Who is Jake Ellis? when talking about a person whose mind is compromised. What would you say to this idea of a man who
can't trust his own thoughts with Deathlok?
Edmondson: At first, Hayes has no idea that he is Deathlok. So there’s no mental confusion when we meet him. He’s a struggling father who’s constantly on the road.
If he starts to become aware? If he learns what he’s doing? Then things will get very, very interesting.
Nrama: This might seem like a no-brainer to some, but seeing as how Deathlok has had stories in the future and alternate dimensions - when and where is Deathlok set?
Edmondson: Current day; he lives in the USA. No future or alternate world angle to the story (For now).
Nrama: And will his story be integrated with the larger landscape of Marvel continuity?
Edmondson: The only teases I can give now are that S.H.I.E.L.D. comes into play in this series, as do a few dangling threads from Black Widow and The Punisher. Beyond that…you’ll have to read to see!