Since 2007, Alex Ross has been reviving World War II era superhero team the Invaders in partnerships between Marvel Comics and Dynamite Entertainment — first, with 2008’s Avengers/Invaders series, then 2009’s The Torch.
As these things tend to happen, the original Invaders — Captain America, Bucky, Namor the Sub-Mariner, the android Human Torch, Toro, Spitfire, Union Jack and the Golden Age Vision — all happen to be once again alive in the present-day Marvel Universe. So what better choice for a next Invaders project than the aptly named Invaders Now, a five-issue series starting Thursday?
Christos Gage (Union Jack, Thunderbolts) is scripting and co-plotting the series with Ross, along with art from Caio Reiss. Newsarama talked with Gage about the circumstances that led to reuniting the team, the horrible WWII secret that’s just now coming to light, and why these characters still work after all these years.
Newsarama: To whatever extent you can answer this, what was the genesis of Invaders Now!? Was it a matter of realizing "hey, all of the Invaders are back in the Marvel Universe now, let's do something with that!" or was it a little bit more nuanced than that — with characters like Toro coming back recently, was an Invaders reunion always part of the plan?
Christos Gage: For that, you'd have to ask Alex Ross, who is the driving force behind the three projects that brought the Invaders back: Avengers/Invaders, The Torch miniseries, and Invaders Now!. I believe it was always Alex's intention to bring the original Invaders back together, or at least create circumstances making it possible for them to reunite. They have a rabid fan base, which includes Alex and myself, so why not?
Nrama: Clearly, you're a big fan of these characters, having described this as a dream project. What is it about these characters and situations that appeal to you? Is it the Invaders specifically, or WWII-era fiction — or Golden Age comics — in general?
Gage: There's a palpable sense of history and greatness about these characters. Even when I first read their adventures in the 1970s, there was a sense that these guys were the heroic pioneers of the Marvel Universe. I look at them with similar reverence to what I have for real life World War II veterans. They fought the greatest enemy of all — Hitler — and saved the entire world. And in terms of Marvel's publishing history, they were first. Everything they did made history, both in their fictional world and in our own. In the Marvel Universe, it's the original Human Torch who killed Hitler! These guys are icons; they're history incarnate. There's a certain sense of purity, of the archetype about them. And they're just really, really cool.
The other thing that makes this a dream project for me is the chance to collaborate not just with the great Alex Ross, who I became an instant fan of the first time I saw his work on Marvels, but with the legendary artists editor Bill Rosemann has lined up to do variant covers: Sal Buscema on #1, John Romita Sr. for #2, Ramona Fradon for #3, and two more still-secret icons for issues 4 and 5. The idea that John Romita (inked by the equally legendary Tom Palmer, no less!) is doing a cover for a book I wrote blows this fanboy's mind. I realize it's stretching things a bit to say I “worked with” these folks, but y'know what? I'm gonna say it anyway!
Nrama: And given that, even though this takes place in the present day Marvel Universe, do you think there's still an obstacle for some fans there, who might see this crew as just old characters, and that it's not as "vital" to the ongoing MU as other projects? How do you combat that?
Gage: I'm sure there are some people who might feel that way, which is why Alex added the "Now" to the title — to reinforce that it's taking place in the present day, although there's an important tie to WWII. But I hope that won't be the case as much as it might have been a few years ago, given the popularity of Captain America, both in comics and with the upcoming movie. At the end of the day, all we can do is tell the best story we can and try to get the word out. And reiterate that this absolutely takes place in the present, and will impact any future adventures of the Invaders.
Nrama: With the team reforming in whole for the first time since WWII, what's the dynamic like there? Are the Invaders pretty much picking up where they left off (a very long time ago), or is there some adjustment to be done?
Gage: It varies. For some, like Namor, the intervening years have been full of activity, whereas for the original Human Torch, who was inactive (he's an android) for decades on end, the war years seem not that long ago at all. There's some adjustment for all of them … in our first issue, we see Toro going to Bucky (now Captain America) for advice on acclimating to a world that's passed you by. But when you get down to it, these heroes share a bond they can never really share with anyone else, and trust each other like they trust few others. They went through the crucible of war together … people who would never otherwise have come together uniting to face the ultimate threat and the horrors only war can bring. When the bullets start to fly, that comes out. The biggest adjustment is probably on the part of Union Jack, who is the only character who is not the original version and wasn't around during the war.
Nrama: The thrust of the plot seems to be divided between a WWII flashback story and action in the present. What's the rough split of how much time is spent on which, and how does one affect the other?
Gage: Issue #2 spends a lot of time on the flashback, but the rest of the series is all present day. That said, the events of the past have a huge effect on the present…even for those who weren't there, like Union Jack. I can't say how without giving away too much, but I'll say this: if you lived in the Marvel Universe and had lost people you loved, and saw Captain America, the Human Torch, and all the others coming back to life, don't you think it would bother you a little?
Nrama: Based on solicitation text, the miniseries revolves around a terrible incident in the Invaders' past. Obviously you can't spoil with any details, but if you can, scale for readers just how bad this incident really was, and how has it managed to stay secret for so long?
Gage: It wasn't on the scale of, say, the bombing of Dresden, which is how it's managed to stay secret … it didn't have a huge geographic or strategic impact, so the world remained unaware of it. But its effect on the Invaders has been deep and lasting. And in terms of impact on the Invaders and on far too many civilians - who may have been irrelevant in the larger terms of the war, but who meant everything to their loved ones — it couldn't have been worse.
Nrama: So far we know Arnim Zola, U-Man and Iron Cross and more are all in the series — what can you say about the role these villains play in Invaders Now!?
Gage: Once again I can't say too much without giving away story details that I'd prefer readers encounter organically…but the Invaders' villains are a big part of their appeal, and I wanted to include them here … and fortunately that made sense for the story. Some of them are present both in the past and in the present. Others we'll see in more than one incarnation. And we'll witness, for the first time ever, the circumstances under which Arnim Zola transitioned from his human body to the artificial one we know today. There's also a cosmic-scale Big Bad operating behind the scenes, who I don't think readers would consider a typical Invaders villain … but who fits here. I hope the readers enjoy his/its inclusion.
Nrama: Alex Ross is co-plotting and providing covers for the series, so you're working pretty closely with him on this. What's it been like working with one of the biggest names in comics on this, and how closely have you coordinated on the story?
Gage: It's been terrific. Alex has been a considerate and generous collaborator. Given how much he's put into the two miniseries that preceded this, I wouldn't have been surprised or displeased if he'd wanted to have a lot more say over the scripting than he did, but once we had the plot worked out he let me write the scripts as I saw fit, and his notes were always perceptive and beneficial to the story. He even sought my thoughts on covers, which boggled my mind … It's like Michael Jordan asking you how he can improve his jump shot. In terms of the plotting, Alex came to the table with just the right mix of specific ideas of what he wanted to accomplish in general terms for some of the characters and open mindedness as far as how to get there and what the mechanics of the story would be. The story conference (which also included Bill Rosemann and Tom Brevoort at Marvel as well as Nick Barrucci and Joe Rybandt from Dynamite) went really smoothly, allowing us to hit on themes that (hopefully) resonate both within the story and, in a larger sense, for readers. It's been a real pleasure and I'd love to work with Alex again any time, should he ever want to.
Nrama: Another important piece of the Invaders Now! puzzle is artist Caio Reiss. How has working with him been so far?
Gage: It's been a lot of fun … I love to see strong young talents develop. He started out very impressive and has gotten better with every issue…he has a dynamic style that lends itself to action, but is also good at conveying character and emotion, which is a rare combination and very important to this particular story. His storytelling is excellent as well. And I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention the stellar coloring by Vinicius Andrade, which is just beautiful!
Nrama: These characters are decades-old, and yet they're all being used in the current Marvel Universe, which rather loudly speaks to their enduring quality. What is it about these characters that keeps them viable?
Gage: They all have their own individual strong points, from iconic costumes to elemental powers to archetypal natures to fascinating origins. But for me what makes them work as a group is the very thing that makes America great - a group of people from widely disparate backgrounds joining together to fight threats to our freedom and make us greater than the sum of our parts. That's what won World War II, what continues to make our country so special … and what makes the Invaders relevant after all these years.