#12.1 cover.Before Nick Spencer’s first Marvel Comics work even came out, this week’s Iron Man 2.0 #1, he was announced as the writer of Secret Avengers for both April’s new reader-friendly issue #12.1, and the Fear Itself tie-in beginning with issue #13. It’s just the latest step up in Spencer’s ever-increasing comic book industry profile; steadily building a fanbase including Marvel’s senior vice president of publishing and Secret Avengers editor Tom Brevoort through his work on comics like DC ongoing series T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. We talked to the Morning Glories co-creator about taking over from previous Secret Avengers writer Ed Brubaker, how former Captain America Steve Rogers is adjusting to his role as head of national security, the appropriateness of a “secret” superhero team in the age of WikiLeaks, and the wonderfully random nature of the comic’s lineup.
Newsarama: Nick, you were announced as coming on board Secret Avengers before your first Marvel comic had even come out — pretty big assignment, huh?
Nick Spencer: I know, right? Not freaked out at all. [Laughs.]Nrama: You’re starting with the Point One issue in April, which was solicited before it was announced that you’d be sticking around on the book during the Fear Itself tie-in. Did you always know you would be doing more beyond the Point One? Spencer: I did know. Tom [Brevoort] approached me with both in hand. I knew from day one that the Point One was just the beginning.
Nrama: So are you maybe following up on long-term plans that Ed had in place for the title, or just launching your own trajectory at this point?Spencer: I know what the [Fear Itself] story is at this point, and have gotten to read some of Matt [Fraction]’s scripts on it. It is a huge, huge story that impacts basically all corners of the Marvel Universe. Basically, anything and everything everyone was fighting for before, they’ve had to drop what they’re doing and move on to this. That’s a big part of what I’m going to be reflecting in these stories.
When you have these huge, epic-scale event stories, sometimes when you’re doing tie-ins to that, it can feel a bit abrupt; that just suddenly, “We’re over here.” One of the first things that I’m trying to do is set it up so that you see that’s a part of the gravity of the situation — that no matter what you were fighting for, this is bigger, this is more important. At least initially for the Secret Avengers, everything that they’re fighting, everything they’re looking at involves the story and the villains present in Fear Itself.
Fear Itself teaser.Nrama: Steve Rogers is one of the main characters of Fear Itself, so is it safe to assume this is tying in pretty closely? Spencer: Yeah. I really wanted to do a story that was as close to the front lines of Fear Itself as humanly possible. I really wanted to do a story that felt like essential reading. If you were really excited and really into what Matt was doing in the main book, I really wanted what we were doing to feed on that, and I think that the three issues we have planned very much accomplish that. This isn’t something where we took some small aspect of the event and then built a completely separate story around it.
To me, some of the best tie-in issues of anything were [Brian Michael] Bendis’ tie-in issues to Civil War and Secret Invasion, and what he would do in the Avengers issues there — that sort of chance to take an aspect of the big story and really give it more pages, and really show it from a particular character’s perspective. That’s really what this Fear Itself arc is. As things are happening in Fear Itself, we are going to stop and take 20-something pages, and say, “This is how it’s affecting this character,” who is in the midst of that. How they’ve been affected by it, what they’re doing about it, and all that kind of thing.
Nrama: Getting to write these characters for the first time, especially Steve Rogers, must be a treat.Spencer: Yeah! I especially got to deal with a lot of Steve in the Point One issue. The Point One issue is very much about Steve and some of these questions I had been asking myself about how his dynamic has changed post-Siege. To me one of the most fascinating things about Steve is, despite decades of existence as a character, this is really the first time that he’s been a general in a war. He’s always been an on-the-field guy, and he’s always been a symbol. Now he’s in a role that’s been occupied by guys like Nick Fury, and Norman Osborn, and that is a very different kind of role, and it’s a very different kind of job. Steve is finding himself confronted with questions and problems that are very different from what he’s used to. He’s trying to hold to those values and those principles that have served him so well as Captain America, but at the same time now he’s dealing in a world of covert operations, and espionage, and black-ops, and all these things that he’s either not been a part of or had a very limited role in previously. Now he’s the guy orchestrating them and engineering them. For a guy like Nick Fury, a guy who’s comfortable in the shadows and comfortable with the shades of grey, that’s one thing. But for a guy like Steve, who has such a strong moral fiber to him, this job is presenting him with a number of new headaches and new doubts.
I think he’s trying to stay true to his ideals and do the right thing, but the interesting thing is this is not a job that Steve sought, it’s not a job that he campaigned for. When the world was falling apart around him, basically the president came to him and asked him to do this. It’s something that we haven’t gotten a chance to really talk about yet. For the Point One issue, I really wanted to do a nice, self-contained, done-in-one story that can stand on its own and could give you an overview of the team, what they do, and what they’re about, but also just have sort of a satisfying beginning, middle and end within 22 pages. That was a real good opportunity to focus on that particular question about Steve.
Nrama: The solicitation for the Point One issue says that the “secret” of the Secret Avengers gets out.Spencer: I don’t know if this team has ever been completely in hiding. I think it’s been more an issue that the main Avengers team is very much the public face of what Steve is trying to do, and the New Avengers sort of exists at the mansion and are allowed to do their own thing. The Secret Avengers have been something that Steve has kept close to the vest. While you could argue that they haven’t been completely classified, one of the things that’s going to happen in this story is that he’s going to be confronted with the propriety of having a team like this, and whether or not a team like this is really appropriate in an era where people are demanding more transparency and accountability from their government. Would everyone be comfortable with the idea of a team that answers to one person and works in the shadows? Is that something that they would be comfortable seeing as part of a national security plan? That’s one of the questions that Steve will be confronted with us here.
The person that Steve is going to be facing in this issue, who is a new character that I’m very excited about personally, is going to be asking, “Is this really the way to keep going?” It didn’t work out so well when it was Nick Fury, it didn’t work out so well when it was Tony Stark, it didn’t work out so well when it was Norman Osborn. What makes you different? For all those guys good and bad, and whatever their intentions were — and I think you could argue that in a lot of ways all of them had good intentions, even Norman Osborn, while he was deluded and a madman, believed he was doing the right thing — this person is going to be asking Steve if he’s really all that different.
#13 cover.Nrama: And it looks like the lineup is staying pretty constant for your issues, right? Spencer: Yeah, I love the roster of the team. Going forward into the Fear Itself stories, I wanted to give some of those characters a chance to shine, and some issues that really focused on them. In the Fear Itself arc you’re going to see three of those characters really get some time: Beast, Valkyrie and Black Widow. At the same time, Ant-Man, and War Machine, and Moon Knight and Sharon [Carter] and Shang-Chi are all still part of the story, and still there, but these three issues Beast, Valkyrie and Black Widow are front and center, it’s really their stories.
Nrama: When the Secret Avengers cast was first introduced last year, it seemed like the kind of lineup you would come up with as a kid —just sticking together different cool characters from different corners of the Marvel Universe.Spencer: I gotta be honest, it’s my favorite Avengers lineup. I think that this team more than any other really does look exactly like that, it looks like that lineup that you put together when you were a kid. My favorite Avengers team when I was a kid was the team from the Evolutionary War annual [Avengers Annual #17] from way back when. That team had Beast, and Falcon, and Jocasta, and Hercules, and the Gray Hulk. I love those teams that don’t maybe make perfect sense on paper, and those teams that seem like very disparate parts, and the Secret Avengers roster is right in line with that.
Nrama: And Scot Eaton is on art for both the Point One and the Fear Itself issues?Spencer: He is a machine, man. He is a beast. He’s cranking out pages so fast it’s terrifying. And they are gorgeous. This is some of his best work ever, and he is hitting it out of the park.