Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas took Peggy Carter to the next level as showrunners of Agent Carter, and they're looking to do the same with Captain Marvel in comic books.
Launched earlier this month, Captain Marvel put Carol Danvers in charge of protecting Earth from extraterrestial threats -- and she's not alone. Partnered with alumnus from Alpha Flight and S.W.O.R.D. -- and dynamic artist Kris Anka, Captain Marvel is taking the Avengers' mantra of "Earth's Mightiest Heroes" to it's next logical, cosmic level.
Newsarama spoke with Butters and Fazekas about the character's new direction, how Puck, Sasquatch, Aurora, and Abigail Brand are fitting with the new program, and receiving the baton from Kelly Sue DeConnick the way they did from Captain America: The First Avenger to Agent Carter.
Newsarama: Tara and Michele, let’s talk about how the two of you made the jump from TV to comic books. It seems like a natural progression, given that you’ve already been working with Marvel on Agent Carter. Is this something you’ve wanted to pursue for a long time?
Michele Fazekas: I didn’t grow up reading comic books, but I was a big sci-fi fan. So the subject matter is fun. Tara’s husband is Marc Guggenheim, and they actually wrote a comic book together called Halcyon.
When we were doing the first season of Agent Carter, they came to us and asked if we wanted to do Captain Marvel, and we were like, “Yeah, let’s do it.” We love working with Marvel, and we love playing in this universe, so we said, “Yeah, let’s try it.”
Nrama: You’re following what is easily the definitive run on Carol Danvers by Kelly Sue DeConnick, who upgraded Carol to Captain Marvel and helped made her Marvel’s premiere female hero. How do you keep that upward trajectory while maintaining the humanity that made Carol’s fans so fervent?
Tara Butters: It’s hard. It’s always hard to follow anybody who has done such an amazing job and has become so connected with a character.
Fazekas: But television is very much like that. When you join a TV staff, somebody else has written the pilot, so you’re sort of used to the idea that you know these characters, but you’re not trying to reinvent the characters. What Kelly Sue has done is so good, we’re not trying to reinvent that.
Butters: We’re just trying to take our own approach to that.
Fazekas: Yeah. In the best version of writing for a TV show, you write the character and you write the world, and you put your own spice into it. So it’s very similar to writing for TV.
Nrama: Speaking of Carol’s fervent fans, will you continue the Carol Corps tradition at cons, and online?
Fazekas: I would hope so!
Butters: We really do care about it being something the fans like.
Fazekas: I’ve been really happy to read everyone’s reactions so far. We had big shoes to fill from Kelly Sue, and it’s been really fun. It’s been a big learning curve, but we’re glad to do it.
Nrama: Captain Marvel #1 had Carol returning to space, but this time, instead of traversing the galaxy, she’s leading Earth’s first line of cosmic defense – the repurposed Alpha Flight. Was using Alpha Flight something the two of you pitched, or was it an idea that developed with editorial?
Fazekas: That actually came from Marvel. They actually had worked out a lot of the big set piece things that they wanted to do. So Marvel’s design for this run was to really differentiate Carol and where she fits in the Marvel Universe. So, the Avengers protect Earth, the Guardians of the Galaxy are out in space, so we wanted to carve out a specific place for Captain Marvel. So she’s on a space station – they didn’t have what that would look like, what kind of space station – and they wanted to relaunch Alpha Flight.
Butters: For us, we really enjoy writing Puck, Sasquatch, and Aurora – they’re fun characters. And it’s nice to be able to give our own spin on them.
Nrama: There seem to be some interesting dynamics developing between Carol and Alpha Flight. She’s developing an relationship with Puck, in particular. Will we see her building her relationships with the individual Alpha Flight members as Captain Marvel continues?
Fazekas: Absolutely. The real interesting transition you have to make, and the problem we have – Chris Dingess, a writer on Agent Carter who also wrote a comic book called Manifest Destiny, would look at our scripts for Captain Marvel and say “You have too much story,” so we would pare it back and pare it back. And then we would have too much dialogue, so we’d have to leave room for the art. You have to get it down to 20 pages. So in our first issue, they said “We’re gonna give you two extra pages since there’s so much going on,” and we were like “OK. Thank you!” So you have to really concisely sell the characters, cause you’ve got plot to deliver, and action to deliver.
It’s really funny how the Carol/Puck relationship developed.
Butters: We don’t now why it happened. They just play off of each other really well.
Fazekas: It’s fun seeing it develop over the course of our arc.
Nrama: Alongside Alpha Flight, you brought James Rhodes back into the picture. A lot of fans really loved Carol and Rhodey’s relationship. Will we see more of him, and some of Carol’s previous supporting cast as Captain Marvel continues?
Fazekas: We’ve got Wendy Kawasaki, who was in an earlier volume. Because we’re on a space station, and Rhodey’s not there, we haven’t – and that’s not to say that we won’t – we haven’t seen him again. I can’t really answer that right now, cause we’re still in the midst of finishing up the last few issues of the arc.
Nrama: One very important development in Captain Marvel #1 is Carol moving into more of a leadership role. She’s done this somewhat in the Avengers, but this is her first time as the top brass with her own team. How does that change her attitude and outlook?
Butters: I think that that’s actually a good part of her arc through these issues. What’s the difference between being a hero, and a leader? Knowing when to let others take the lead because you’re commanding. It’s a struggle she has to overcome, and figure out what is her place in this new world.
Fazekas: First and foremost, she sees herself as a soldier. When Rocket is teasing her in the issue about taking a desk job, that’s something that really bothers her. And that’s the conversation she has with Rhodey. It’s not the same. Captain Marvel shoots from the hip, she can be rash sometimes. You can’t always do that when you’re running a huge space station and have a bunch of people reporting to you. So it’ll be an interesting learning curve for her. And diplomacy will be an interesting learning curve for her. She can’t just punch things into submission all the time.
Nrama: You’re working with Kris Anka on Captain Marvel, who’s an in0demand artist at Marvel right now. He also did a poster for Agent Carter. Did you two seek him out for Captain Marvel?
Fazekas: That’s a total coincidence. Isn’t that weird?
Butters: I think he was asked to do both the same week.
Nrama: So it’s just a lucky pairing on Marvel’s end. How would you describe your working relationship with Kris?
Fazekas: He’s so fast. We’ll send a script out, and within 24 hours, we’ll get the pencils back. I see when he tweets; he never sleeps. He’s up all night. He’s so creative. He’ll come up with great ideas to fit our needs. We’ll need some sort of alien, and he’ll come up with these really unique, great ideas. So it’s been a really fun collaboration.
And he’s got a much more complete knowledge of past stories. We tried to do a crash course on Captain Marvel, but there’s no way you can read every single thing that’s ever been written on Captain Marvel and Alpha Flight. He’s a great resource, cause he’s got a really broad knowledge that we can collaborate with.
Nrama: Has he helped develop the story at all, or is it more a case of him coming up with the designs and filling in those details?
Fazekas: It’s primarily design. He’ll occasionally make suggestions about a character or a character trait. But generally how it works is, we’ll write the script and he’ll shoot a suggestion here or there.
Nrama: We touched on this earlier, talking about the differences in scripts, but what do you feel are the biggest differences between crafting a sequential story for TV, and creating one for comic books?
Butters: I think, really, it’s pacing. The pacing of a comic book is very different from a TV show, and that’s something we’re getting used to. They want a certain amount of action in a certain amount of pages, and you have to find the rhythm to tell the story that builds to those moments.
Fazekas: Also, it’s been really fun to focus on the visuals. In writing a TV script, even though it’s a visual medium, the scripts are more dialogue-driven. So we’re writing everything. You’re the production designer, you’re the costume designer, you’re the cinematographer, everything. You have to tell the artist, “Here’s what this room looks like. Here’s what this piece of tech looks like,” so it’s, in some ways, more work. But in other ways, it’s super flexible. You don’t have to worry about budget. You can do whatever you want.
Butters: You’re right, cause you can explode the sun, but you have to be able to do it in six panels or less, and get the story to that point. So there’s the challenge – how do I get to so many beats knowing that I’m limited to this many panels.
Nrama: You’re kind of still working in a budget, but instead of a monetary budget, it’s a budget of space.
Nrama: Captain Marvel is one of Marvel’s top female characters, and inadvertantly become the company’s namesake. Is it important to you to prioritize Carol’s visibility as a female superhero, and her potential as a bridge for female readers into the Marvel Universe?
Fazekas: I think so. I’m very excited to see what’s gonna happen with this character in the next few years. There’s a movie coming out… So I think just the fact that she is more visible and more talked about is really cool.
Butters: What’s so funny is, my daughters, who really got into the Marvel stuff through Agent Carter, they saw the comic book, and my youngest daughter said, “Who is this? I like her outfit!” So, she’ll pick it up and thumb through it, and I hope it excites her about comic books.
Nrama: You just mentioned the Captain Marvel movie that’s scheduled for 2019. Seeing as how the two of you have experience with live action superheroes in Agent Carter, have you given any thought to the possibility of helming her adventures on the big screen?
Fazekas: They had writers on board before we were even involved with the comic books.
Butters: We’d jump on the chance if they called us, though. We would welcome it.
Fazekas: Yeah. But that was all well underway by the time we were involved.
Nrama: Looking ahead, we’ve seen in the cliffhanger of Captain Marvel #1 that Carol may be revisiting her Kree roots, and advance solicitations seem to suggest that Alpha Flight may have a traitor on deck. Can you give us any hints about where Captain Marvel is headed?
Fazekas: We will surely see more of her Kree roots, but maybe in an unexpected way. It’s obviously tied to this derelict vessel that they’ve come upon that maybe isn’t so derelict. What else can I say that’s not gonna get us in trouble? [long pause]
Nrama: I could guess. Does Captain Marvel steal the Infinity Gauntlet and destroy half the universe?
Butters: You got it! That’s perfect. [laughs]
Fazekas: We’ll definitely get into what it means to be part Kree now. It’s all sort of wrapped up into her being a commander and making decisions that are for the entire crew, not just for herself.