A few months have made a whole lot of difference for Nick Spencer at Marvel. In March of last year, it was revealed that he was leaving Ultimate Comics X-Men, and didn't have a Marvel book announced to take its place.
That was status quo for about six months until October 2012, when it was announced at New York Comic Con that Spencer was taking over Secret Avengers, which launched with a new #1 last week. Also last week, word broke that he's temporarily co-writing Avengers with regular series writer Jonathan Hickman starting with May's issue #12, taking the cosmic-scale team to the Savage Land and on the road to the still-top secret Infinity event.
Newsarama talked with the Morning Glories writer about his latest and very high-profile Marvel job, working with Hickman, how he views his role as co-writer, and approaching the book's very large cast.
Newsarama: Nick, news broke last week that you're co-writing Avengers for a bit — is that due to Jonathan Hickman's increasingly packed schedule? That book ships twice a month, he's also doing New Avengers, has East of West and Manhattan Projects at Image, and Infnity is on the horizon.Avengers #11
cover.Nick Spencer: It's definitely that. Jon is going to be doing some very big stuff this summer, on top of the Avengers books, and his creator-owned work. He's a very busy guy. I think that the nature of Avengers, with the rotating artists and the twice-monthly shipping, that the goal was to keep ahead of the schedule and make sure the books were the best they could be.
For me, it was about 5 in the morning my time, and Jon emailed, and was like, "Do you have a minute to talk?" I had no idea what it was about. So when he was like, "How would you like to come co-write Avengers for a little while?" I couldn't say yes fast enough. It's a pretty huge opportunity, and I'm having a blast. Getting to work with Jon is just fantastic.
Nrama: I know you guys have been friends for a while — he was helpful with you breaking in a few years back, right?
Spencer: Jon gave me a pullquote on my very first book. On the first issue of Existence 2.0, you can see a very nice quote from him. He's always been very supportive. He's a guy I tend to go to whenever I need advice. He's a very smart guy and a good friend, and somebody whose advice I always take seriously. So now to get to collaborate with him is pretty awesome.
Nrama: How long is the co-writing gig?Existence 2.0 cover
pullquote).Spencer: It looks like six issues. I’ve told them I'm around as long as they need me. That'll be a couple of issues with Mike Deodato, #12 and #13, and I don't think that the next artist has been announced yet. But I'm really fired up about working with both of them.
It's the big lead-up to Infinity. One of the coolest things about the gig is that it wasn't just, "Come in and kill time for a few issues, and do some filler." The lion's share of what I'm working on is the direct lead-in and the prelude to Infinity, and setting the stage for all that, so it's a big, important story. It wasn't just an opportunity to be a part of the book, but to be a part of the book at a really crucial juncture.
Nrama: And the start of your stint, as the May solicitations revealed, is set in the Savage Land.
Spencer: Yeah! I've been getting Deodato's pages in, and they are incredible. His take on the Savage Land, I think it'll change the way you see it drawn from here on out. It's that impressive.
To get to play around with the Savage Land as the location, and all the mythology that comes with that, was a treat. The stuff in #13 will have my fingerprints on it a little more than some of the others, I think. I got to invent a little, and bring in some of my old favorites. On top of that, it sort of follows on other stuff that Jon set up in Avengers #4 with Hyperion, and the Origin Bomb kids that we saw towards the end of that issue, so it's very much a continuation of that part of the story.Nrama: As noted, Hickman is known for having very set, direct plans for his books — but it sounds like there's still some room there for you to put your own stamp on it?
Spencer: I think it's part of my job to be as invisible as possible. This is Jon's book, and a huge long-form epic, the likes of which I don't know that we've quite seen before. I have the luxury of kind of knowing where it's all going, and I can say that the scope and the scale of the story… there just aren't many that can really compare to this. When it's all said and done, just the volume of issues between Avengers and New Avengers, it's going to be one of the biggest stories we've ever seen in modern superhero comics.
I'm very conscious of the fact that there will be a point where someone will sit down and read all of this together in the big omnibi that it ends up being. I would like for the issues that I'm a part of to fit seamlessly within that. I'm very much trying to stay as close and as true to Jon's vision as I can manage.
Nrama: "As invisible as possible" — words that'll surely comfort some and likely discomfort others.
Spencer: [Laughs.] Look, I'm certain that there will be plenty of points in these issues — certain dialogue tics and characterizations and choices — where people who are astute readers of both of our work will be able to see the difference, and say, "That probably came from Nick," or "That's definitely a Hickman thing." My job here is to help. Jon’s been very encouraging in telling me that he’d like to hear my voices for the characters, and to build in some interpersonal character moments when the opportunity strikes, so stuff like that is more where you might notice me a little more.There are different kinds of co-writing situations. There are some where the book is being handed off, the book is going through transition — this isn't one of those instances. For me, I wanted to uphold the integrity of the book as it's meant to exist, rather than saying, "OK, how can I put my stamp on this? How can I make this distinctive, or be showy about it?" That's really not the job here. It helps a lot that I'm a huge fan of Jon's, and a huge fan of his work, and I like the way he writes. That makes it a lot easier. You come in and you're wanting to live up to a certain standard.
On top of that, I've been a fan of Jon's since The Nightly News came out, and I've read, I think, everything he's written. I like to think I know his work fairly well, and I can approach it from a place of hopefully having a decent understanding of what he'd like it to be.
This is more of a traditional co-writing situation. Jon is doing the plots, sending over a nicely detailed beat sheet, then I’m doing the first draft based on that and our conversations, and Jon comes back and does the polish. So far it’s working really smoothly — we’re having fun.
Nrama: It seems that you guys have fairly similar sensibilities as it is, so it's not a situation where it's a weird mix.Spencer: It's enormously flattering to get that call from another writer, saying, "I need to collaborate with somebody, I'd like it to be you." That's a big deal. And it's a huge deal when it comes from somebody that you respect and admire.
In some ways, we really do [have similar sensibilities]. We're both long-game guys. We both like very big stories. We're very aspirational and ambitious about the kinds of stories that we like to tell, and the kinds of things we like our books to say. Whenever we talk story, and whenever we talk about our books, that tends to not be a foreign language to me. I feel a lot of the same things.
Nrama: You already have your own Avengers book, so you're kind of used to this territory — but for the issues you're working on, there has to be at least a few characters that you're working on for the first time. There are the new characters that Hickman has introduced, and some you haven't written much before. Is there a good amount of new experience here for you?Spencer: Yeah. That's really the cool mix here. On the one hand you're getting your opportunity to write the classic Avengers — the legends. But then Jon has also introduced these new takes on existing concepts, and new characters that are just endlessly fascinating to me. This Hyperion, this Captain Universe obviously, and Smasher — these are new characters, and it's really fun to be at this early point for them, and getting to help shepherd them into a greater awareness.
I'm still the guy who, when I'm scripting, and putting a line in Captain America's mouth, that's really awesome. It just is. One of the best things about this experience so far is that when you're writing the book that is "Avengers" on the logo, and you're part of that, there's no ceiling. There's just no limit. You're at the top of the mountain. It's really liberating, because you just feel like you can do anything.
It's a big cast. There are a lot of them. That in and of itself is a fun juggling act. You finish scripting an issue, and say, "I had 26 characters with speaking lines in this issue." That's incredible. It's a fun mix.More from Newsarama:
- What We Learned From MARVEL's MAY 2013 Solicitations
- Spencer and S.H.I.E.L.D. Gather the Most Secret AVENGERS Yet
- Avengers Writer Makes 4 Horsemen 'Heroes' in EAST OF WEST