SDCC '08 - Abnett & Lanning on Marvel's 'War of Kings'

SDCC 08: Abnett, Lanning on War of Kings

Marvel's next space epic event will be a war between kings.

Teased by Marvel all week, the announcement at San Diego Comic-Con of the "War of Kings" event was vague, but all indications are that the showdown will feature Vulcan and the Shi'Ar against Black Bolt and the Inhumans. And although the format of War of Kings wasn't confirmed, the writers guiding the event will be Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning.

"From X-Men: Emperor Vulcan to Secret Invasion, as events in various corners of the Marvel Universe began to take unexpected twists and turns, we quickly realized that many power players were swiftly heading towards a violent collision," editor Bill Rosemann told Newsarama of the event, which is set to begin in early 2009. "Vulcan vs. Black Bolt? The Shi’Ar vs. the Inhumans? That’d be a pretty good fight, wouldn’t it?"

Teaser images released by Marvel have shown the Shi’Ar, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Nova, the Starjammers, and the Inhumans. "Looks like a volatile group of combatants!" Rosemann said. "When kings go to war, many are caught in the crossfire."

While Marvel's previous "cosmic" events -- Annihilation and Annihilation: Conquest -- have mostly been relegated to cosmic characters that don't touch the rest of the Marvel universe, this event will involve much of what is going on now throughout the 616, particularly in Secret Invasion. For example, Marvel editor Nick Lowe said at Marvel's Secret Invasion panel that Chris Yost will be writing something with Vulcan that will lead up to the event and will include Havok, Polaris and Marvel Girl.

Newsarama talked to Abnett and Lanning to find out more about the event, and although the two writers aren't saying much, we talked about the Inhumans, what's up with Black Bolt and where readers should be watching out for clues of what's to come.

Newsarama: How did the idea behind War of Kings evolve?

Dan Abnett: Well, it's growing organically out of things that have happened over the last year or two in the Marvel Universe. It's growing, definitely, out of Secret Invasion and most particularly out of Secret Invasion: Inhumans. And it's coming directly out of all the stuff we've done on the cosmic books and Annihilation: Conquest. And it's also coming out of some of the great stories that have been told in the X-Men area, and it's evolved out of what's been done with the Shi-Ar Empire. Everything's sort of in this critical positioning where this story has to happen, essentially, because all the components are in the right place. If it didn't happen, there'd be something very odd going on.

Andy Lanning: And also all of those books which Dan mentioned have set the background and have created the backdrop on which a story like this can be told. So all the pieces are there through the way everything has been set up, and we're just going to play it out in the most exciting way we can.

NRAMA: Will readers of your Guardians of the Galaxy and Nova series see clues about what's coming?

AL: Without getting too specific, yes. I also think there are certain things that are going to happen in both of those books where it won't immediately be apparent where something is going to go, but it will end up having a surprising impact on the bigger event, or vice versa.

NRAMA: You're getting to play with the Inhumans. Are you Inhumans fans? How are you approaching those characters?

DA: We are Inhumans fans. And they're such outsiders. They're as much outsiders to the Marvel cosmic world as they are outsiders to Marvel Earth. We cannot say too much about how we're going to deal with them, because I think there are going to be some revelations in terms of what they do and the part they play in this. Hopefully this will be a defining moment for the Inhumans as characters in the Marvel Universe. There's something very old and weird about the Inhumas that sets them apart, and hopefully we're able to explore and expand upon what was done with them before.

NRAMA: Wasn't Black Bolt a Skrull?

DA: If he is, he's a very dead Skrull right now. [laughs] Well, the teaser shows Black Bolt or maybe someone who looks very much like Black Bolt -- let's put it that way.

AL: If it is Black Bolt, which we can neither confirm nor deny, he'll be very, very, very angry.

NRAMA: It looks like the Shi-Ar will also play into this. You haven't worked with them before as part of your cosmic stories, have you? What's that going to be like to get your hands on those characters?

AL: No. When we were doing the Annihilation stuff, [Ed] Brubaker was doing the Rise and Fall of the Shi'Ar Empire stuff. So at that stage, the Shi'Ar were kind of off the table for us, because they obviously had their own involved storyline that Ed was working on with the X-Men books. Obviously, now, things have lined up quite nicely so that we are able to involve them in the War of Kings story. It's yet another great cosmic classic that we're getting to work with. Basically, we've done the Kree, we've had Skrulls, so it's been a nice progression to work our way up to the Shi'Ar.

DA: The nice thing for us is that sometimes the characters out of the X-office do remain sort of separated because they have a continuity all their own. And the Shi'Ar are so important, cosmically speaking, I'm glad we get to use them now, because otherwise there would have to be an increasing question in Marvel readers' minds that we've had these Annihilation events, so why haven't we seen the Shi'Ar in them? You'd think it would be affecting them in some sort of way. So it will be great to show there's that we're sort of linking up different parts of the Marvel Universe, and it's really exciting.

AL: It's almost like the Shi'Ar Empire has been sitting there like they've had very noisy neighbors. This is them starting to bang on the walls and yelling to shut up. [laughs]

NRAMA: An advantage of the timing of doing a story with the Shi'Ar Empire is it now has a character like Vulcan, who has been explored quite a bit lately and has ties to the Summers characters in other parts of the Marvel Universe. Can you talk about Vulcan's role in this at all?

AL: Not too much. Not beyond the point that everyone will know going into this book that Vulcan is taking the Shi'Ar into an overly expansive time at the moment. They're kind of expanding their empire. So that, more than anything, at some point, is going to make him butt heads with some of his cosmic neighbors. And that -- and seeing what their reaction to that state of mind is -- leads to what's going to happen in the War of Kings event.

NRAMA: We've see the Starjammers in the teasers as well. So are they going to be playing a part in this?

DA: All the people you've seen in the teasers will play a part, greater or lesser, in this story. We're drawing together strands from different parts of continuity, and it would be remiss of us not to make sure that anybody who would be affected doesn't get touched upon. So we get to connect up characters that wouldn't otherwise have met, necessarily. And I think that's great. It has that sense of cosmic scope where everyone really is in the same universe. And also, if we've done this correctly, all of those characters will have some role to play in the greater story as well.

NRAMA: You guys have gotten such a great response to your events in the past, and here you are doing another one. Why do you think you're so good at juggling big, multi-character stories like this?

DA: It suits us. We like the challenge. We like a story that's got lots of elements in it. And that sort of thing seems to suit the cosmic stories that have a grand scale and grand scope to them. So I don't necessarily know why everybody else thinks we're good at them, but they're certainly something we like to do.

AL: And they asked everybody else and they said no. [laughs]

NRAMA: How much planning goes into something like this? Has it been in the works for quite some time?

DA: Yes, it's fair to say this has been in development quite a long time, and an enormous amount of planning goes into it. Planning gets revived as we go along, with things being changed and going through revisions. It's an ongoing process. And at this time, we're still in that process. We haven't gotten there yet, which is why we're being really vague about certain things because we're still moving things around and figuring out where the best place is to put them.

And also, when we put in the pitches for both Nova and Annihilation: Conquest -- and even for Guardians of the Galaxy -- we talked about all the larger concepts for the Marvel cosmic universe as a whole, which having the room now to do these things and getting even the OK to do an event like this gives you the room to play out those ideas.

NRAMA: It feels like you guys are starting to really build your own corner of the Marvel Universe. Geoff Johns and Brian Bendis both recently talked to Newsarama about how their books all work together -- and because they're on them long-term, it allows them to build toward events in their own little corner of the universe. Do you agree that something similar is happening in the cosmic part of the Marvel universe, and being Marvel exclusive and having control over this arena allows you to plan and carry out these big events?

DA: Certainly we love it. To be able to develop and play out storylines that have a genuinely lasting dramatic effect on the Marvel Universe, without having to sort of put it all back in the box when we're through with it, is great fun. We couldn't do it without the complete cooperation of our editors, who tell us, ultimately, the stuff we can do and what we can't. And that's a fair thing. It's a process of throwing ideas back and forth to see what is the best thing to do.

But yes, the really nice thing about it is, because we did a reasonable job on our own cosmic stories and began to define the cosmic part of the Marvel Universe, there are things that are coming out of Brian's corner of the Marvel Universe and things coming out of the X-Men corner that we're playing directly into now. So I think, creatively speaking, the Marvel Universe functions in an extremely interesting way with an enormous amount of give and take. People will hand over things and allow a story to run out of somebody else's area, which is great fun, 'cause it makes the universe feel more real.

It's almost like, because we've been successful with Annihilation: Conquest and the things coming out of that, we've almost become the "cosmic writers." We knew during Conquest that we were going to get the Guardians book, and it seemed at that stage that Marvel was quite happy to let us play with all the cosmic toys, which has quite a lot of stuff there for us to be messing around with. But it turns out now that it all goes quite nicely with the Secret Invasion stuff, with the Kree being a space-born race. It's like we've been brought back into the fold, as far as being able to overlap with other things as well. We were quite happy to just carry on doing our cosmic stories until the cows come home because there's so much out there to touch upon. But I think it just seems, like we said in the very beginning [of the interview], this has a nice, organic feel to it. Bendis is doing some stuff that we're getting to pick up and run with as well. And we're incredibly pleased with that.

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