When an Ultimate Comics Thor miniseries was announced at Comic-Con International: San Diego this past July, a similar book starring the Ultimate version of Marvel's other summer 2011 movie star, Captain America, seemed like a safe bet.
And here it is: February 2011, the Wolverine: Weapon X creative team of writer Jason Aaron and Ron Garney re-team for Ultimate Comics Captain America, where Cap will meet his Vietnam War equivalent, and not for beers at the American Legion post.
Yep, this is Aaron's Ultimate Universe debut, and Garney's return to Captain America — a character he had two beloved stints on in the '90s. Newsarama chatted about the series with both creators.
Newsarama: Jason, let's start from kind of the top-down. This is your Ultimate universe debut — what's your personal view of the Ultimate line over the last 10 years? As a writer, is it something you'd been hoping for a chance to explore for a while?
Jason Aaron: As I've fan, I've loved it. I've been keeping up with the Ultimate U from the get-go. And yeah, as I writer I've always been interested in getting in the mix there. Glad to finally be on board.
Nrama: And the Ultimate Universe has changed pretty drastically in just the last couple of years, since Ultimatum. What's your take on where the Ultimate Universe stands now? What makes it a territory that you were eager to add your voice to?
Aaron: I just love the attitude and the scale of the Ultimate U and the freedom that comes from working in it. Don't get me wrong, I love working in the main Marvel U as well, but since the Ultimate line has been so deliberate and well-maintained, it really comes with a lot of freedom. I'm getting to explore areas of Cap's past in a way I couldn't do in the Marvel U, since it's all already been so meticulously mapped out.
Nrama: Ron, it's pretty huge news that you're drawing Captain America again, albeit the Ultimate version. Your runs on the character in the '90s were legendary, and too short for a lot of fans' tastes. What's it like being back working with the character?
Ron Garney: Thanks! Well, it feels like a different character in a way — this isn’t exactly the same Steve Rogers, in that his methods for getting the job done might be grittier and more realistic so in that sense It kind of feels a bit new. There are moments though on certain pages I get feelings of deja vu. It’s been so long since I’ve drawn him in his own book, in action. I think the readers will probably feel the same way visually in certain panels. Can’t help it!
Nrama: Like Aaron, this is also your debut in the Ultimate Universe. How does it feel to be contributing to the legacy of that side of Marvel Comics?
Garney: Feels great! I know how important this universe is for Marvel and what a success its been — so I’m honored to be a part of it and have it be a part of my own career history there as well.
Nrama: Moving to the star of the series — what do you like about the Ultimate version of Captain America? From your perspective, in what important ways is he different than the traditional version of the character?
Aaron: He's a bit more of as asshole, I think. But still a good guy at heart. Still a hero. And he's very much still a man out of time. That's really one of the main themes of the book. What happened while Cap was frozen in ice? What lessons did he miss out on on? And who was left to carry the load while he was gone?
Nrama: You've written mostly characters from the darker, grittier side of the Marvel Universe at this point — Wolverine, Ghost Rider, Punisher. Though Ultimate Cap is a bit harder-edged than the classic version, he's still Captain America and the "sentinel of liberty" — how's it been working with a much more conventional "good guy"?
Aaron: Yeah, I suppose he is a more conventional good guy, but he's also a soldier, and this book in some ways is really a modern-day war story, with Cap being confronted first-hand with the lessons of the Vietnam War, with the legacy of a time he completely missed out on.
Nrama: The plot itself seems especially catered to the Ultimate universe, since in "616" Captain America was awake and active during the Vietnam War (though now because of the way comic book time works, he would still be frozen through it). What can you tell us about the genesis of the story, and the conception of Cap's opponent being his Vietnam-era equivalent?
Aaron: I have a great interest in the Vietnam War, as anybody knows if they've read my first big comic work, The Other Side from Vertigo. My cousin, Gustav Hasford, was a Marine combat correspondent during the war and went on to write the novel that Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket was based on. Because of Gus, I've been able to meet lots of vets over the years and hear their stories. It was a complicated war and it has a complicated legacy even today. Cap missed out on all of that. All he knows about Vietnam is what he reads in the history books. I wanted to have a character show up who in some ways is just like Steve Rogers. Just a patriotic kid who wanted to do his part in service to his country. But it didn't work out at all like he planned, and where Cap became our country's greatest hero, this guy found himself forever sworn to be an enemy of America.
Nrama: Speaking of the Vietnam War Captain America — what can you share about him? Why is he Cap's "ultimate nemesis," as he's described in the information revealed to press?
Aaron: Like I said, he and Cap are very similar in a lot of ways. It's just that their wars were very different. Cap was a hero, forged in the trenches of WWII. This other guy either reached his breaking point, or as he would put it wised up, in the jungles of Southeast Asia. Now they're coming face to face for the very first time, with America itself as the prize. This Vietnam War era Cap is a character that Marvel U fans will recognize, though one who's never appeared in the Ultimate U before.
Nrama: You guys worked together on Wolverine: Weapon X. What has it meant to both of you to be reunited on this project?
Aaron: I love working with Ron. I think he's one of the very best artists working at Marvel today and has been for a while now. I just keep trying to come up with new ways for him to have people punch each other in the face, and he keeps making me look like I know what the hell I'm doing.
Garney: Well, it offers consistency and an opening for my work to continue growing in a coherent direction. I’ve always experimented, now it’s nice to just keep pushing in one direction to try to realize some potential down the road. I think when I did Cap the first time, the fact that it was so short sort of stunted the artistic growth and vision I was looking for there. Ain’t too shabby working with a superb writer and guy like Jason Aaron, and Jason Keith, the colorist extraordinaire, again, as well.
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