With great crisis comes great opportunity.
In Marvel's upcoming Infinity event, much of the Avengers are already away from Earth, dealing with the growing threat of The Builders — leaving the planet prone for an attack from Thanos, which surely is not a good thing for the heroes left behind.
So given all of that havoc, what's left for the terrestrial bad guys? In Infinity: The Heist, a four-issue miniseries debuting in September from the creative team of writer Frank Tieri and artist Al Barrionuevo, a team of Iron Man villains led by Spymaster embark on a major score in the midst of some major chaos. Specifically, they're aiming their focus on Stark Enterprises, and all of the high-tech treasures that come with it.
We talked with Tieri — someone very familiar with both the villains of the Marvel Universe and large-scale event stories following his work on books like Civil War: War Crimes and Dark Reign: Made Men — for the first interview on what the unconventional tie-in story is all about.
Newsarama: Frank, it appears that one of the unique things about Infinity is that, given the way it's structured, even though it's a very large, cosmic event, it organically allows for some smaller-scale stories to fit right in, and it looks like this is one of them. From your end, what inspired Infinity: The Heist?
Frank Tieri: You know, you get people that aren’t fans of these big, company-wide crossovers… but I’m not one of them. There’s a reason you often find me attached to them — not only are they great when done right, but they also give you the chance to do some different things… like this project for instance. I mean, Marvel’s not normally doing too many Iron Man villain-centric heist books, ya know?
Now, as for how the project came about, [Marvel editor] Tom Brennan and I have done some smaller projects together but we’ve been wanting to work together on something a little more substantial for a while now. So when Infinity came up, we knew we wanted to be a part of it, it was just a matter of what to pitch. No big surprise that we decided to do a villain piece, given my history, the question was what to do with them. Having them take advantage of the situation with Thanos and his forces came to mind, our heist idea was hatched, and here we are.
Nrama: On that note, what about the story of Infinity: The Heist particularly appeals to your sensibilities as a writer?
Tieri: Well, it’s a villain piece so I certainly have my fair share of experience writing those. But beyond that, it plays much more like the crime noir/ heist movies that I love than anything else. Think Reservoir Dogs. Think Ocean's Eleven. Think The Usual Suspects.
But instead of gangster types, it’s with guys like Blizzard and Unicorn. (Yeah, I said Unicorn.)
Nrama: Let's talk characters — looks like Spymaster is at least one of the main characters of the story. How did you arrive on using that character, who is clearly on the more obscure side? (Maybe partly the point.) What do you like about him?
Tieri: It’s funny because Spymaster was a character that both Tom and I wanted to use no matter what. I think we both feel that he should really be more of a major player; that he’s somewhat of an underused character.
Look at the way I played him when I used him in Dark Reign: Made Men. In that series, I established that he’s faked his death oodles of times and allowed lesser criminals to assume his identity — thereby keeping him and his little schemes all the more hidden. That’s how I see him… a man that’s behind the scenes of a lot of stuff you never realized he was a part of. A man that’s been more than one step ahead of his adversaries at all times. And a man that recognizes that an alien invasion more than anything spells opportunity…
Nrama: Beyond Spymaster — and you mentioned Blizzard and Unicorn — what other villains are involved in the heist? And will we see some of Marvel's heroes get involved in the plot, as well, or is this purely villain-centric?
Tieri: I’ll say it right off the bat... since we’re dipping pretty heavily into his Rogues' Gallery, it’s a pretty safe bet good ol’ shellhead himself will be showing up at some point. How, when and why is part of the surprise.
As for Blizzard, he’ll actually serve as our P.O.V. character. I think sometimes the best way to view these heist stories is through the eyes of the lowest man on the totem pole — and that’s what we’re doing here with Blizzard. He’s a character that’s basically been a career loser. Whenever he’s faced off against Iron Man or whoever, the outcome is rarely in doubt. But what I will say is this though… he, more than any other character, will be looked upon differently when this series is done. And we’ll leave it at that.
As for the rest of the cast, we’ve got Whiplash, Firebrand, Titanium Man, Whirlwind, and Unicorn. (Yeah, that wasn’t a typo the first time… Unicorn. Deal with it.) Each villain was selected because they brought something different to the team and our story — Firebrand is our femme fatale, Titanium Man is the strong silent type, etc.
And Unicorn is our bat $%^& crazy wild card. Also, and maybe more anything else, I just like the challenge of doing something cool with a guy named Unicorn.
Nrama: Not looking to spoil things, but can you tease anything related to the actual titular heist that Spymaster and the rest of the main cast are embarking on?
I’ll do more than tease and I’ll just tell you what it is… they’re ripping off Stark Enterprises. Why else would you gather a group of Iron Man’s villains unless your scheme was Iron Man related? They know him better than anyone. What’s more, he’s beaten them all so many times they’re more motivated than anyone.
Spymaster figures with Iron Man’s eyes elsewhere on Thanos and space and whatnot, now’s the chance to make off with something that’s worth more than a thousand bank jobs — and that’s Tony Stark’s bag of goodies. What’s he planning to do with Tony’s armors and tech when/if he gets his grubby hands on them? Again, that’s part of the surprise.
And really, that’s just one of them because one thing this series won’t be lacking is surprises. Because believe me, there’ll be plenty of twists and turns outside of the usual “will something go wrong with the heist?” scenario.
Nrama: Al Barrionuevo, who has been adding a lot of different books at Marvel and DC lately, is illustrating the series. What has you excited about the collaboration?
We actually debated a number of different artists for this project before we decided Al was our guy. If you look at Al’s career, he has a history of doing some nice villain work with the Bat-villains, Loki, etc. — so that definitely contributed to him getting the nod. Bottom line is, he was just a good fit for the story we were looking to tell.