From Marvel's Heroic Age Comes AGE OF HEROES Anthology
From Heroic Age Comes... AGE OF HEROES
What happens when Norman Osborn, the Siege of Asgard, and the Dark Reign ends?
Putting together a series of stories of this brand new status quo, the first issue of the book hits this May, sporting some heavy-hitting writers such as Kurt Busiek, Rick Remender, Paul Cornell, and Dan Slott teaming up with a murderer's row of artists like Marko Djurdjevic, Chris Samnee and Leonard Kirk. Newsarama caught up with some of the minds behind Age of Heroes #1 to ask them about the Avengers versus J. Jonah Jameson, Doctor Voodoo's love life, and what happens when a member of MI:13 decides to ditch queen and country and defect to the U.S. of A.
Newsarama: When you put together the four of your names together on a project like this, the inevitable comparisons come to projects like DC's 52 or the thrice-monthly Amazing Spider-Man. For you, what do you see as the goal for something as talent-heavy as Age of Heroes? Where does it fit in terms of the Marvel Universe as a line?
Tom Brevoort: Age of Heroes is an anthology, so it's only natural that there'd be multiple creators involved. But it's in no way similar to 52 or ASM, in that each creator is telling his or her own stories, rather than collaborating on something larger.
In other words, this is closer to the NATION X limited series.
Rick Remender: It seems like a collection of moments that paint a larger picture. A tone setting series that shows some of the various corners of the MU and where they stand in this new age.
Kurt Busiek: I think it fits smack in the middle of things, really. This isn't a side project or something happening outside the regular continuity or walled off from it in some way. It's, for lack of a better word, a recalibration of the Marvel Universe in the wake of all that's gone on the last few years. That'll be happening throughout the line, of course, but what you'll see in each book is how it affects things in that book. How does it affect things for the overall Marvel Universe, though? That's what we're exploring.
As for what the goal is, it's what the goal always is -- tell good stories that'll excite an audience, give them a window into a fascinating and turbulent world. Having terrific creators on it gets us eyeballs, I'd say, but we've still got to deliver. It's an important series to the Marvel Universe by dint of what's going on, but our job is to make it a good read, too. That's the fun part.
Paul Cornell: I don’t really know. I’m just pleased to be involved. Especially beside these guys.
Nrama: With all these big brains on one book, have you guys had any contact in terms of brainstorming these stories together, or have you guys been sort of hammering out your chapters individually? Have there been any genius moments -- or any funny stories at all -- with your fellow writers, artists and editors over the course of Age of Heroes?
Busiek: That would have been fun. But no, it's not that sort of book, where we're all telling one story together. We're all telling our own stories, exploring different facets of the Heroic Age, so there wasn't any gang plotting.
Remender: I worked closely with my editor Lauren Sankovitch on the concept and the story we're telling here. We found a nice work process together during the Doctor Voodoo series and returned to that format here, talking out beats, figuring out tone. I then worked with super champ Chris Samnee, who went nuts doing wonderful model sheets for every new character in the story. But it isn't something we went over with the other contributors. I think we're all building individual stories with the same tone and understanding of where the world is and what the general mood is.
Cornell: Actually, we all (or at least, I did, maybe they let the others play together) wrote alone. I have two small stories in the book.
Nrama: Marvel has been touting Age of Heroes as your big return to the Marvel Universe, Kurt. We've spoken in the past about creating characters in other peoples' sandboxes -- but in terms of the overall tone and character of the Marvel Universe, are there any stories you've been itching to tell?
Busiek: There are some, sure -- some ideas I had left over from earlier plans, cool ideas we didn't get to, and new ideas I've come up with since. But it's a little premature to talk about those. It's great to be back playing in the Marvel Universe -- although one could say, since Marvels: Eye of the Camera #6 has only recently gone off to press, that I never fully "left" -- but where that might lead I can't really say, not yet. We've talked about a bunch of things, but for now, I'm happy to have a toe in the pool here and to be learning about all the stuff that changed while I wasn't looking closely...
Nrama: Considering the timing of it all, Kurt, it looks like you're poised to be on the ground floor of the Avengers, in terms of their post-Siege lineup. Will you be working with the new team? If so, for you, how do you feel this lineup has improved, in terms of storytelling options? We know there's still a lot of debate over whether or not the teaser shown last week is even the finished lineup or not...
Busiek: The new team does appear in my Age of Heroes story, but I'm not involved in whatever's going on with the team beyond that. I was delighted, working with the line-up I worked with, but I don't think I'm allowed to tell you who they are. Brian Bendis doesn't live that far away from me, and there's always the possibility that he's armed.
Nrama: With the Dark Reign and Norman Osborn finally caput, you're pitting the World's Mightiest Heroes against Marvel's Matchless Moustache, J. Jonah Jameson. Without giving too much away, what can you tell us about this? What brought this sort of story on? And what's the appeal of a character like JJJ?
Busiek: It's not a direct conflict -- certainly not the sort of thing that's gone on with Norman, but hey, everyone's just seen that, so we wouldn't want to repeat things anyway. My story is actually kind of a Marvels- or Astro City-like piece, focusing on how the world (or more specifically, New York City, which has always kind of been the center of Marvel's world) reacts to the events of Siege and the dawning of the Heroic Age. And Jonah's the viewpoint character we see it through. As mayor of New York, and as a long-time detractor of Marvel's heroes, the events of Siege would seem like a natural opportunity for him, to beat the drum against superheroes and try to get people to save their adulation for normal people again -- people like him, in particular -- but it may not work out the way he thinks.
So you could think of it as a Marvels story with JJJ instead of Phil, and that's a big, big difference. That's what's so fun about writing Jonah -- he's loud, he's memorable, he's emotional, he's compelling. He's as capable of being a hero as he is a villain, which means he's full of surprises. One minute he's out to bring down Spider-Man, the next he's exposing corruption. He's passionate about truth and justice (with just a few blind spots) and genuinely fights for the good of the people of New York. It's that mix of irascible bully with dedicated newsman (turned public servant, now) that fills the character with energy and fun.
Nrama: You've been paired with Marko Djurdevic, a heavy hitter in his own right. What has the collaboration been between the two of you? How have you recalibrated your storytelling techniques to best maximize his strengths?
Busiek: Other way around, actually. Not that Marko recalibrated himself to fit me, or anything, but that we had the luxury of a little lead time on this, so I worked out a story and then [editors] Tom and Lauren and the fine folks at Marvel went out looking for the perfect artist for it. Since I was writing a story that had a lot of real-world human-level scenes with a lot of character stuff, they needed to find someone who could do that, but at the same time there are big impressive blockbuster superhero moments in it too. So they needed a guy who could move between those two worlds effortlessly. Marko was the top choice, so it was great that he was available.
As for collaboration, it's been through our editors -- I'm on the West Coast, Marko's over in Europe, and we haven't had the chance to talk. I'm eager to see what he's doing with the story, though -- I'm a big fan of what he did on THOR, so I can't wait to see what he does with my script.
Nrama: Rick, you've been getting your hands dirty lately with a chopped-up, undead version of the Punisher. Sooo... how did you end up doing a "Date Night" story starring Doctor Voodoo?
Remender: We’d just wrapped up issue 5 of Doctor Voodoo and Lauren came to me with the opportunity to use an idea we’d been discussing for the series but couldn’t get to. A slice of life, a brief moment of sanity in the life of the Sorcerer Supreme... that naturally turns less than sane. . A lighthearted character piece with a character you’d just put through hell, a perfect sorbet.
Nrama: When you tell people that the Sorcerer Supreme is none other than Doctor Voodoo, a lot of times, you'll get people saying "who"? For the uninitiated, what do you think the appeal of a character like Jericho Drumm?
Remender: Brother Voodoo has roamed the MU with the disembodied spirit of his brother Daniel since the early 70’s as the Voodoo equivalent of the Sorcerer Supreme. A few months back The Eye of Agamotto promoted him to the lofty position of Sorcerer Supreme after Stephen Strange misused the position. Jericho is a big classic Marvel character whose time has come. I love the dichotomy inherent in his personality, self-doubt and over confidence, his desire to serve his community being thwarted by his responsibility to save the universe. He’s had to earn his position and the respect of the other characters in the MU, he’s paid his dues, studied his craft, a man who was content focused on his small corner of the world suddenly given this huge promotion to the most powerful sorcerer in the universe, the underdog made good, he’s just very relatable to me and I’m happy to be writing him again.
Nrama: Doctor Voodoo has had a weird romantic past -- he had some awkwardness with Monica Rambeau over in Marvel Divas, and way back when his brother even possessed a woman so she might fall in love with him. And his jobs as both a doctor and a Sorcerer Supreme can't leave him with a lot of free time. So, in a very roundabout way, how's Jericho's game doing, in that regard?
Remender: His history with the ladies is wild. His passions run a bit hot. When he was a boy a homeless man Jericho had taunted killed his mother. He’s got issues left over from this. Guilt connected to women leads to inappropriately passionate, even stalkerish obsessions with ladies. Alexis, the lady in his life now, alluded to this in Doctor Voodoo #1 and has clearly had to overcome her fear of his behavior to continue the relationship.
Nrama: Artist Chris Samnee is working with you on this story, correct? How have you guys played off each other? What do you feel Chris really brings to the table with this style?
Remender: Artist Chris Samnee and I have literally been trying to put together a project together for five years. The closest we got was a back cover to an issue of Fear Agent. He's one of my favorite artists. A traditionalist in that story is always his main focus before all else. Immaculate acting, clear yet dynamic staging, fluid camera work... Hal Foster might have secretly traveled in time and trained Chris. His work on this short, on anything he touches, is truly lush.
Nrama: Paul, seeing MI:13 mentioned in the solicits was a welcome surprise. How does it feel working with these characters again for Age of Heroes?
Cornell: Very, very, awesome. It was like seeing old friends again. I still mourn for that book, I still have Pete Wisdom running around inside my head suggesting dialogue for himself. And in many ways this is the best era for a character like Cap, who’s always had his head screwed on when it comes to representing as a straightforward hero.
Nrama: It says in the solicits that a member of MI:13 might be defecting to the United States! Could you tell us a little bit more about that?
Cornell: No! It’s a quantum thing. The stories are so tiny that if I do that, I poke the cat and the universe collapses. Or something. I’ve been trying that metaphor across several interviews now, and as you can see, it’s still not working.
Nrama: Not to dredge up disappointing memories for you, but where do you see the cast of characters of MI:13 in terms of their place in the Marvel Universe? Are you approaching MI:13 in any sort of a different manner this time around?
Cornell: Well, two of them are absent, off doing something else while the rest of the team is being honoured by Steve Rogers at a reception. A good excuse to get up to something covert in New York. Pete is a bit cynical about this whole new sweetness and light business. But there’s one big thing I wanted to do here which is proper and fitting, and I’m really grateful to Tom for letting me do it.
Nrama: You're working with Leonard Kirk again, correct? It seems like you guys are one of Marvel's One True Pairings, between Dark X-Men and the origin Captain Britain and MI:13 series. What brought you two together again? What is the back and forth between you two like?
Cornell: I trust Leonard to the roots of my being. Were we in an episode of Stargate Universe together, I would let him walk off into the alien desert to get help, taking the water supply with him. (Terms and conditions apply.) I can see his style in my head now, so I can write to his strengths, and whenever he asks to change a page layout, I just say yes before he’s described what he’s after. It’s always better. There’s something crisp and powerful about his work, particularly his character designs and expressions. I hope we can work together a lot more.
Nrama: Anthology storytelling has its own sets of challenges and freedoms -- it's got a limited page count, but on the other hand, it answers the call for character-driven, done-in-one storytelling. For you guys, what's the appeal of doing a book in the style of the Age of Heroes?
Remender: Just what you said. Focusing on character. It’s so easy to get lost in plot; character moments are so refreshing to write. Beginning middle and end, all there in one hit. It’s a bit harder to write but I find it rewarding.
Cornell: Coming from the UK, anthologies formed my first comic reading experiences. It seems a natural form for a universe-defining book to take, in that we can call in on a lot of different characters and situations.
Busiek: I think a book like Age of Heroes has the strengths of an anthology, in that it's got variety to it, different styles, different approaches, different characters -- but it's got the strength of a series with a strong central concept, too, in that we're all telling stories about the same subject, even if we're telling them in different ways. So you can have big moments, little moments, famous characters, minor characters and more, but each individual story is one piece of a bigger picture. So "Thumb on the Pulse," Marko's and my story, is a story that stands on its own. But Age of Heroes, the series, holds together as a collaborative work. We're each free to tell our own story, but it's all in service of the same central idea.
Nrama: For those readers who might still be on the fence about this book, what would you tell them to get on board? Are there any moments you guys are particularly excited to see hit?
Cornell: I just love the fact that two teams I love are still out there, still working. And having this wonderful new background to work in front of.
Busiek: Well, I always like seeing Captain America frozen in a block of ice.
But that's not my story, so I shouldn't say more about that...Age of Heroes #1 ships May, 2010 More on the HEROIC AGE: