Chaykin: AVENGERS 1959 a 'Thematic Sequel' to NEW AVENGERS

Chaykin Takes the Helm of AVENGERS 1959

In the recent "Infinity" arc running through issues #9-#13 of New Avengers, writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Howard Chaykin introduced the Avengers team of 1959: Nick Fury, Dominic Fortune, Sabertooth, Namora, Ulysses Bloodstone, the original Silver Sable and Kraven the Hunter.

That story wrapped last month, but the team returns in a five-issue miniseries titled Avengers 1959. Chaykin's on both writing and art duties for the book, and bringing some lineup changes but a consistent feel with what he's calling a "thematic sequel" to the New Avengers storyline.

With the first issue of Avengers 1959 set for October, Newsarama talked with Chaykin about the series, revisiting the characters (including one of his own creations in Dominic Fortune), researching the period and adding a "MILF-y" type to the cast.

Newsarama: Howard, what was the inspiration behind the Avengers 1959 miniseries? Was it basically the obvious, a desire from you and Marvel to keep the ball rolling after the flashbacks in the recent New Avengers arc, since they were well received?

Howard Chaykin: I guess! I was absolutely surprised and delighted when they came back at me with this. I really was. It's a dream project for me, because I get to draw sh*t that I really like to draw. I love doing period material— slight variations on costumes and the world. It's a great project. It's going to keep me busy for a couple of months, which is always a treat. Doing stuff that I'm digging — what more could you ask of life?

Nrama: It sounds like this series will be roughly similar territory in terms of plot and tone as what we saw in New Avengers.

Chaykin: Yeah. For lack of a better word, let's call it a "thematic sequel." It picks up pretty much where ["Infinity"] ends, and goes further, and deals with other characters from that period, all of which are basically related to Marvel's world of the 1940s, having survived the end of the 1950s.

Nrama: It's going to be a different threat though, right? Not the Red Skull this time.

Chaykin: We're going to be dealing with kind of a trilateral — I'm going to be as oblique as possible — menace. It'll be our guys, the obvious bad guys, and a group of other guys who may not seem to be bad out front, but turn out to be nowhere near as good as they present themselves.

Nrama: Are you tinkering with the lineup at all?

Chaykin: Yes. I opted to lose Bloodstone and Silver Sable, because I felt that they were a bit redundant to what we were doing. We needed something a little more different. I added the Blonde Phantom, who I've always wanted to use. The rest remains the same.

Nrama: A lot of people reading this might be unfamiliar with the Blonde Phantom — what can you tell us about the character?

Chaykin: Blonde Phantom was a character that was created back in the '40s when there was that transitional period between the superheroes of the second World War to what was going on in the late '40s. There were a lot of characters like that. She's a gun-toting hot babe. By the time we meet her she's not quite as young as the other characters, so she's been a bit weathered, but she's still hot . I hate the phrase, but she's a little MILF-y. She's got a couple of kids, but she's still out there on the road, and she's still looking good. She connects with a bunch of our male characters in various different ways.

Nrama: Since this era of the Marvel Universe is relatively unexplored territory, it seems like there must be a lot of freedom for you, because there isn't a lot of set rules in place for the era.

Chaykin: You'd be surprised. I like working against sort of a skeleton of structure, because it creates a richer idea. Yes, there is a lot of open ground, which I'm playing with, but there's also a lot of structure to work against; characters who may or may not be active or alive at this point. In my original wish list of villains, I had some characters that had to be taken off the list just because of their previous commitment to where they were at this point.

Howard Chaykin interior art

from New Avengers #12.

God knows, I've got plenty to play with. For example, I had to make a very, very specific, conscious choice not to add another member to the Avengers. I go back and forth on whether it was the right decision, but I ended up figuring out a way to use that choice as a plot point. I'm not going to be any more specific than that. When you see where our characters interact in action, you'll understand the point I'm making.

Nrama: This is your first work at Marvel for a while that you're both writing  and drawing, isn't it? At least in terms of a multiple-part story.

Chaykin: Yeah, it is. And I'm excited about that. The last big project was Captain America Theater of War: America First, and I did write and draw a 14-pager for Captain America #600, which was an absolute treat.

This will be along those lines. As I speak, all five issues are panel broken down. Today is my first script day, I will start writing dialogue to support the panel breakdown. I've got everything printed out, so before I even think about doing that, I'll take out a red pen and make sure I've hit all of my bullet points.

I'm really anally retentive. One of the things I learned from writing television for 15 years is the concept of laying pipe, paying off, and tracking elements. It's really important to me to make sure that everything tracks. When I was running a show, my last couple of years of my TV career, I had a couple of guys who came out of sitcoms and reality TV, who didn't really have that kind of strength.  So we ended up using a lot of those post-it tags to create. "These characters must be paid off in this way." "If you switch away from these guys, what are these characters doing while this is happening off camera?" That kind of stuff.

That's really important for me, particularly in as involved a narrative as this is. You've got a lot of characters to service, and they've got to be where you say they are, and not just sitting and waiting to come on stage, because it's not like that. I'm a little OCD, and I think that serves me. Being organized and being obsessed about structure has definitely been a big part of what I do.

Nrama: With you taking over the writing reins from Brian Michael Bendis on the Avengers 1959 team, can readers expect a pretty consistent tone from what's been seen already?

Chaykin: I think Brian's take on the material pretty much set the pattern; certainly the relationships that exist in the team, between Sabretooth and Kraven, for example; Namora and Kraven, for example; a relationship that evolves between the Blonde Phantom and Fury, and the Blonde Phantom and Fortune.

One of the things I'd like to deepen that Brian implied is that [Fury and Fortune] have met before, in, say the context of the second World War, and/or Korea. I always loved Nick Fury's origin. A lower east-sider, very much like Burt Lancster was. He's a real New Yorker, while Fortune's a New Yorker who transported himself out west. But I've always felt that Fortune served in the Spanish Civil War, and ultimately ended up serving in the OSS during the second World War. Those are the stories of Fortune that I've never gotten to tell. So I have to assume that Fury and Fortune have crossed paths in combat.

And I suspect Fury and Sabretooth have also crossed paths, although that wasn't as implicit. Stuff like that. There's lots of character stuff that I'd like to emphasize and amplify.

Nrama: Obviously you've already worked in this era in New Avengers, and have explored similar points in history in past comics like American Century. Does taking on a series like this still come with a lot of research?

Chaykin: Absolutely. We're doing a lot of world traveling. We'll be hitting the Marvel hot spots — the various nations and cities that have been established in the Marvel Universe. We'll be flying period aircraft, we'll be traveling on period trains. One of the things that was coming up at that time in history were hydrofoil boats. They were new and they were very hot. Everybody was using them. So I've got that kind of stuff.  

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