A new era of Journey Into Mystery has begun, with a new creative team — writer Kathryn Immonen and artist Valerio Schiti — starting their run earlier this month with issue #646, along with new main character, Sif. Newsarma talked with Immonen about building up the main character, what being the new highest-numbered comic at Marvel means to her, and the unlikelihood of Sif ending up as a parallel universe yoga instructor.
Newsarama: Kathryn, though clearly your Journey Into Mystery is different than what's come before — new creative team, new main character — there are still some clear ties, from the Asgardian focus down to the continuation of the numbering of the series. What type of subtle similarities do you see between what you're doing with the book, and what Kieron Gillen did for the past couple of years? Thematically, do you see a connection?
Kathryn Immonen: I think we're both interested in a kind of meta-textual approach to storytelling… at least on this title. And, additionally, I'm hoping that I can balance out the scenery chewing as well as he did.
I think Journey Into Mystery is the book in the Asgardian pantheon where a certain amount of lightness is appropriate and not at all inconsistent with embracing characters pursuing high adventure with genuine emotional heart. Kieron really set the tonal bar for me in that regard, among others.
Nrama: Sif has been in Marvel Comics for nearly 50 years and depicted in a popular live-action movie, but is still very new as a main character and a solo star. What qualities attracted you to the character? What makes Sif unique?
Immonen: Lauren calling and asking me if I was interested in Journey Into Mystery, and also by the way Sif, were the qualities that initially attracted me to the character.
And then! I had really enjoyed writing her when I did the Thor origin story last year. But even as I was wading my way through the material for that, it was abundantly clear that there really wasn't a whole lot there. But Kelly Sue DeConnick did that really lovely one-shot and that certainly helped to establish some actual dimension.
What I most love about Sif is probably her extraordinary dignity and there's also a touch of the 'head girl' about her which makes her feel obligated to take on perhaps far more than she needs to because no one else can do it as well as she can. For me, I don't think there's any other alternate universe or time line where a set of other life circumstances or choices means she ends up as a yoga instructor. I think she'd always be tearing it up. (Please don't write me letters about how your yoga instructor really tears it up.)
Nrama: In that same line of thought, though Sif has been around for quite some time, she definitely doesn't have the same amount of history as many other Marvel characters of the same age. Because of that, has it been easier to take Sif in new directions than other Marvel heroes? And how much potential have you found in adding new layers to Sif, as opposed to other characters who are more clearly defined?
Immonen: Sif's kind of an unusual bird this way because while it's true the narrative is not dense for her, the character seems incredibly stable and developed in terms of her core values and behaviors and reactions. She standing on a very rich base and so it's been a real joy to just write outward from there.
Nrama: With a book like this, part of the challenge can be taking otherworldly characters and settings and making them more relatable; "grounding" them, perhaps. Is that a concern for you with Journey Into Mystery? Or does it just come naturally as part of the process? Judging by the first issue, it looks like there's a good amount of wry humor to help bring things down to Earth (even if only one page takes place on Midgard).
Immonen: The Asgardians are certainly different in that they don't have costumes. There's a certain kind of useful 'dialogue' that can happen when you've got Tony Stark Iron Man. Sif is only ever who she is, she never takes it off and part of that's the god part but then it's also just her particular nature. She's the ultimate straight woman and commands huge respect for it. So, there are lots of places for playfulness as a part of general contrast or just life, generally… but it is never going to be at her expense.
Nrama: In upcoming issues, it looks like Sif will be interacting with more Marvel heroes, including the Superior Spider-Man (whoever that might be). How important is it to you for the series to integrate with the broader Marvel Universe? And given that Sif has been so clearly associated with Thor's world, are you eager to see her dynamic with other Marvel characters?
Immonen: It's always a good idea when you can widen the scope of a title, even if only for an issue or two. And from my perspective, it's a lot of fun to periodically write characters who know each other by reputation but don't have the buffer of a history to, uh, mitigate their interactions.
Nrama: You've now been working with series artist Valerio Schiti for a few months now. From your perspective as collaborator, what makes him uniquely suited for this book?
Immonen: Valerio is just a complete and total gift to this project. He's got great story telling and an amazing talent for character design. His ability to create expression on non-human faces is really stunning and because I do love me a talking monster, the floodgates are open.
Nrama: You've done quite a bit of Marvel work over the years, including many major miniseries, specials and a stint on , but this is unique in that it's you coming on board an ongoing series with a fresh start, and the potential for a long run. How significant is this type of opportunity for you in your career? Do you see Journey Into Mystery as a distinctly different type of project for you?
Immonen: Man, any job in this market is a significant opportunity. But as far as the long run? I honestly can't, and don't, think of it in those terms. I'm just taking it one arc at a time.
So, am I looking 20 issues down the pipe? No. But there are ways, in a story, to just kind of say to yourself, "I'm just going to leave this here for later… just in case." And maybe nobody even notices. I think that you can finesse the details all you want but there are always things that develop, sometimes seemingly of their own accord, that are surprising and can lead elsewhere. (Cue the gentle lowing of alien livestock).
Nrama: With Amazing Spider-Man ending in December with issue #700, Journey Into Mystery will soon be the highest-numbered comic at Marvel. What (if anything) does that kind of benchmark mean to you? Is there a sense of pride, perhaps, attached to it, or would you rather have started your run with a new #1? Or does the number of book not matter to you?
Immonen: I'm not unaware of how numbering (or renumbering) can affect a title, of course. I think it's quite great that JIM's current issue number speaks directly to its longevity. And I do feel like I'm adding links to the chain of a title, which is enormously gratifying.
But ultimately, does the actual number of a book matter to me? Not really, and not least of which because it's part of a set of decisions that really doesn't directly affect what I put on the page. But that's maybe a little easy for me to say because I've been given a pretty great opportunity to blast off in a new direction.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!