Roger Stern Gathers the Time-Traveling CAPTAIN AMERICA CORPS

Stern Gathers the CAPTAIN AMERICA CORPS

 

For the past year, Marvel Comics has been amping up its production of Captain America titles, given the feature film starring the character out on July 22. In the five-issue Captain America Corps miniseries starting next week, they're also increasing the number of Captain Americas.

The series sees Steve Rogers, Bucky Barnes, U.S. Agent, American Dream and new character Commander A — all from different points in the Marvel timeline — teaming up together to deal with the mysterious threat of Americommand. The series is written by legendary Marvel scribe Roger Stern (no stranger to Cap following his stints on Captain America, Captain America: Forever Allies and Avengers) and illustrated by Philippe Briones.

What brings these Cap and Cap-esque characters together? What's"Americommand? Who is this Commander A guy? Newsarama talked to Roger Stern for the answer to those questions and more, including news on what he's working on next for Marvel.

 

Newsarama: Roger, I'll start with the obvious and say that Captain America Corps is definitely a unique idea for a miniseries. What can you say about the conception of the series, and how you got involved?

Roger Stern: For me, it all began — as so many things have lately — with a call from Tom Brennan. Tom had been my editor on the Young Allies special and the Forever Allies miniseries, and he had another Cap project that he wanted me to consider. Tom gave me the working title of "Captain America Corps" — and the premise of various Captain Americas being brought together from across time — and asked if I thought I could build a story from that. A couple of previously established Caps were going to be tied up in other projects, but aside from that, I had no restrictions.      

Well, I couldn't resist a challenge like that. So, while I started making a list of Captain Americas and Cap-inspired heroes who would be interesting to assemble, I set another part of my brain to considering who or what could be responsible for bringing them together — and why.

Interior art from Captain America

Corps #1.

Anyway, by the time I'd figured out my cast, I also knew who was behind everything. And why.

I don't want to give too much away, but it involves persons unknown monkeying with the fabric of time in a way which specifically involves Steve Rogers, and results in profoundly altering reality.   

Nrama: Certainly sounds like a bit of a change of pace from Forever Allies.

Stern: It is a lot more cosmic in that the existence of the entire multiverse is at stake if our assembled corps of heroes lose. But it's also a generational story. And at its heart, it's a story about America — both as a nation and as an ideal.  

Nrama: A big hallmark of this series is time travel, an element you've dealt with several times in your career, from Kang vs. Immortus in Avengers and Avengers Forever to Superman: Time and Time Again. For you, what is it about time travel that makes it such fertile ground to return to in very different stories?

Interior art from  

Captain America

Corps #1.

Stern: Oh, I've loved time travel stories ever since I discovered Alley Oop in the pages of my hometown newspaper. H.G. Wells' The Time Machine was assigned reading in school, and by my teens, I had read Robert Heinlein's classic "By His Bootstraps" and "All You Zombies." When you think about it, we're all time travelers, journeying into the future one second at a time. The great thing about fiction is that we're able to greatly accelerate that journey — or reverse it. What could be more fun than that?    

Nrama: Let's look at the characters that comprise the corps ― Forever Allies starred Bucky, but this series also includes the most famous Cap of all, Steve Rogers. What was it like returning to write Steve Rogers?

Stern: It's like visiting an old friend. I've long thought that Steve Rogers was Marvel's Superman… not so much in terms of power, but in heart. Even though he's seen the worst that humanity has to offer, he still strives to bring out the best in us. Steve's an idealist, yet there's not a naïve bone in his body. And despite the fact that he's of an earlier generation, his appeal really is timeless.  

Interior art from

Captain America

Corps #1.

Nrama: Based on context clues, it looks like this is the Captain America of WWII we're seeing. What prompted you to use that version of the character?

Stern: Yes, in this story we're picking up on Steve early in 1941… before he was partnered with Bucky, as a matter of fact. This Captain America is brand new at the job. We're all so used to seeing Steve as the leader… but he was a tyro once himself. And I thought it would be interesting to see him tossed into a situation where he was a follower.  He already has a lot on the ball, but of the five core members of the Corps, he's the rookie.     

Nrama: Of course, Bucky's here too, and given that he's Captain America in the series, I'm guessing that means he's from the current Marvel timeline ― at least, since he's in a Russian gulag in the comics right now, relatively current. So, certainly there's a lot of juicy potential there with an adult Bucky interacting with a WWII Cap, right?

Stern: Oh, yeah. Bucky… well… can we call him "Jim?" I feel funny calling a grown man "Bucky."

At this point in time, Jim is both older than Steve and more experienced at being Captain America. And that's in addition to all the life experience he's had as a member of the Invaders and the Avengers… not to mention his life as the Winter Soldier. The roles are really reversed here, with Jim as the hardened veteran and Steve as the earnest young recruit.   

Captain America

Corps #2 cover.

Nrama: U.S. Agent, who himself was Captain America at one point, is also in the series. Given his current condition in Thunderbolts, it looks like this U.S. Agent is from somewhere in the past. He's played a lot of roles with a lot of different mental states, from Avenger to founding member of Force Works to leader of the Jury to a short-lived stint in Omega Flight ― which version of the character are we seeing here?

Stern: This U.S. Agent is the classic John Walker. Longtime readers may recall that Walker was once a replacement Captain America, during the early years of Mark Gruenwald's run as Cap's writer. I wanted to include a butt-kicking Gruenie hero on the team, just to make things interesting. We're bringing the Agent here from a point in time shortly after he became an Avenger. You'll find out exactly where by issue #3.   

Nrama: The character a lot of fans might not have much of a handle on is American Dream. It's also extremely rare to see an MC2 character interact with mainstream Marvel Universe characters (I actually don't even know if it's ever happened before), and this is the first time any MC2 character has been seen since the end of Tom DeFalco's run on Spider-Girl.

Stern: Yeah, I really enjoyed Tom's American Dream stories.

Captain America

Corps #3 cover.

Nrama: What kind of element does American Dream to the series, and how does she handle interacting with the superhero she's grown up idolizing?

Stern: First, I felt it was important to have Dream on board, to keep the team from being an all-boy's club. I think she's a great future representative of the Captain America legacy.

As for interacting with the others… well, she's meeting people who are legends to her, her idols. And, just as with Jim Barnes, she's older and more experienced than Steve. And that weirds her out just a bit.   

Nrama: The final member is Commander A ― new character, yes?

Stern: Yes. Since we're reaching across time anyway, I wanted to add a truly unknown factor into the mix. Commander A is from the 25th Century. In addition to being a future extension of the Cap legacy, he's also a living symbol of America's ever increasing diversity. He's an example of what the future can be… provided we don't screw up the present.   

Nrama: The mysterious AmeriCommand appears to be the antagonists of the book. I know they're, well, mysterious, but what (if any) insight can you shed about the kind of presence they play in the book?

Stern: The AmeriCommand is the end result of a really nasty altered reality. They represent the dark, reactionary side of America. Major America is the leader of the group… or is he? The Ameridroid is also a member, but this 'Droid is somewhat different from the one we've seen before. AmeriCop-One runs the group's enforcement wing. And rounding out the 'Command are two super-powered women: Broad-Stripe and Bright Star.      

As for their motives… well, I'll be revealing that in the story. After all, we have to keep some things a surprise.  

Nrama: Philippe Briones is on art ― what's the collaborative process with him been like on the series?

Stern: Oh, Philippe is a wonder. We first worked together on a Doctor Octopus story that appeared in Web of Spider-Man #12. For those of you who missed that story the first time around, it was collected in Spider-Man: Origin of the Species Hardcover. The trade paperback edition goes on sale in July.

We're working Marvel style, of course. Philippe draws the story from my plots, and then I script the pages from copies of his penciled art while he's inking the originals.

Philippe has a gift for design, and he really makes the characters move. Which isn't surprising, considering that he worked for Disney Feature Animation, on Hercules, Tarzan, and The Emperor's New Groove.

And the detail that Philippe puts into the pages just takes your breath away. It doesn't matter what wacky thing I ask for, he makes it work. In the first issue, I asked Philippe to draw an extra-dimensional chamber that evoked M.C. Escher, and he pulled it off perfectly. And he's always tossing in little bits of business that add to the story.     

Nrama: Roger, before we go — is there anything else you're working on that readers should know about?

Stern: I recently finished writing a new Spider-Man story, drawn by Roberto de la Torre. They story's called "Old Haunts," and it should appear in some form later this year.

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