It looks like the Avengers are getting some new recruits.
This winter in Avengers Assemble, writer Kelly Sue DeConnick is welcoming two new faces to the title – Spider-Girl and Warren Ellis. Spider-Girl comes to the team in search of some answers and finds some heroes like herself in Spider-Woman and Black Widow. These Spider Ladies, as DeConnick calls it, lead a team of Avengers right into the middle of a gang war between the scien-terrorists A.I.M. and one of the writer’s old villains from her 2011 Osborn series: Toxic Doxie, the mad geneticist June Covington.
It all starts with November’s Avengers Assemble #21 with Ellis joining in #22; for more on this, the Spider Ladies, Team Sad, as well as Warren Ellis’ comedy chops, Newsarama spoke with Kelly Sue DeConnick.
Newsarama: After Al Ewing’s single-issue stint, you’re coming back strong in November with Avengers Assemble #21. Last time we talked you said you have a “who’s who of Avengers heavy hitters” in this – as well as Spider-Girl – all coming in time for Inhumanity. What can you tell us about this issue and the ensuing arc?
Kelly Sue DeConnick: We're riffing off the idea of a turf war/grudge match between two groups of bad guys with the Avengers caught in the middle. In Avengers Assemble #21, we’ll see a lot of heroes but the real focus of the issue is the three spider ladies: Black Widow, Spider-Woman and Spider-Girl. Carol Danvers – aka Captain Marvel – has a nice scene, Tony Stark has a funny moment -- good Avengers face-time for all, but the spider ladies are the stars.
Nrama: And just who are the two groups of bad guys that your team is caught between?
DeConnick: It’s A.I.M. and June Covington.
Nrama: Aka Toxic Doxie, first seen in your excellent Osborn series with Emma Rios.
DeConnick: Exactly. Although I can reveal who they are, I have to be coy about what they’re fighting over because that’s how they tie into Inhumanity.
Nrama: Since Inhumanity is still a few months away, I can understand you wanting to keep it under wraps. I understand working as a writer part of an event series and its tie-ins can be difficult, but since your husband Matt Fraction is writing it does it make it a bit easier?
DeConnick: Logistically, sure. I can just go into his office and say “Hey, I have a question.” But actually my previous experience such as tying into Infinity has been just as easy – I could, and did, just pick up the phone and call Jonathan Hickman.
(Hilariously though, there was this one time I had a question and I bugged Fraction about it and he said, “Yeah, editorial and I are still wrestling over that one. I have one answer, but editorial has another. Check with them so as not to get into any trouble.”
It was an amicable bit of wrestling; turned out well for everyone.)
Nrama: Getting back into the book, Black Widow and Spider-Woman have become a bit of a team here in recent times. How would you describe their camaraderie?
DeConnick: Actually, I don’t think they’re particularly close. To me, Natasha is very much a lone wolf. She knows how to be part of a team and be a team member, but I don’t think she opens up to people in a way that would engender even friendly intimacy. I think Natasha is a hard person to get to know, whereas Jessica, I suspect, overshares. [Laughs]
Nrama: And coming into this is Spider-Girl, very much a rookie compared to Jessica, Natasha and all the other Avengers. What’s her role in the story?
DeConnick: Well, Warren and I are using Spider-Girl as a way in. You’re going to stay with her while all of the various heavy hitter Avengers show her how it’s done. It’s kind of, “Here, let us school you on this thing!”
Spider-Girl is our guide for this big Avengers mission, and she’s the reason for the mission. Spider-Girl comes to the Avengers with a problem, and the various Avengers are going to step in for various roles and attempt to help solve her problem as much as they can. Spider-Girl is the one that, ultimately, has to end it, but she learns from the best along the way.
Nrama: So she’s not the helpless damsel here – she’s a young hero looking for some words of wisdom?
DeConnick: Sure. There’s a mentorship happening. She comes in and says, “I’m over my head here a little bit; what do I do?” Then the Avengers kind of tag-team in and out to help her get to the one yard line, but she’s the one who carries the ball into the end zone.
I just made a football reference. BAM.
Nrama: Indeed. So Spider-Girl, Spider-Woman and Black Widow are the Avengers at the center of this big war over territory between A.I.M. and June Covington. In the cover to Avengers Assemble #21, we see the three heroes riding down some strands of DNA – how does DNA play into this?
DeConnick: Hmmm... It might have something to do with June Covington being a geneticist; that would be my guess.
Nrama: [Laughs] Yes, that sounds pretty obvious.
What also sounds pretty obvious is your upcoming team-up with Warren Ellis, who is co-writing with you on this beginning with December’s Avengers Assemble #22. I know you two have been friends going back to the days of the Warren Ellis Forum and he even wrote a short on June for her debut in your excellent Osborn series a couple years ago – but how did this partnership come about?
DeConnick: Well, I just asked!
I didn’t think in a hundred million years that he would say yes, but I had to ask… and he said yes. Then I panicked because I hadn’t cleared it with anybody at Marvel, but luckily my bosses know a good thing when they see it and now I’m co-writing Avengers Assemble with Warren Ellis and not fired.
This is the first time we’ve written something together and Oh my god it’s so much fun! I like him so much; he’s extraordinarily gifted and utterly hilarious. I was nervous, but so far it’s been brilliant.
We agree on a lot. I think he’s a genius, he thinks he’s a genius... So it works out. [laughs] He'll bop me with that cane of his for that one.
Seriously, these interviews are always so full of hyperbole, but truly: I love him as a creator, and as a friend. He’s one of my favorite people in the world.
Nrama: Speaking of reunion, in Avengers Assemble #22 we have Team Sad coming back, Spider-Woman and the Hulk. For those late to the game, why are they called Team Sad?
DeConnick: The Team Sad thing came out of Avengers Assemble #9, when what was meant to be a friendly competition amongst the Avengers went south fast. In it there were several teams: Iron Man and Thor were Team Happy, Spider-Woman and the Hulk were Team Sad and then we also had an All Caps team with Captain America and Captain Marvel. I have to admit – I didn’t come up with the names however, it was my editor Tom Brevoort.
DeConnick: Yeah! Tom's amazing. Those team names were never in the script, it was just a note he came back with. In the script I had written for there to be a whiteboard for keeping track of each pair’s scores with tic marks... Wolverine and Spider-Man were tracking the results. When the art came in Tom had a handwritten note to dub them Team Happy and Team Sad. It was one of the funniest things I'd ever seen. I loved it and it stuck.
Nrama: Fans, especially on Tumblr, seem to have really embraced it.
DeConnick: And Spider-Woman and Hulk are great together. They make sense.
Nrama: So they’re back in this epic reunion –
DeConnick: [Laughs] I wouldn’t call it epic, but business is taken care of. The two have a pretty great scene together. The team has some moments, and puts a smile on my face. And taking care of business is key to that.
I think Warren was tickled by the “make a sandwich” thing.
Nrama: I don’t think people get to see the funny side of Warren Ellis that much, unfortunately.
DeConnick: You don’t think so? I think he’s a genius comedy writer. He’s always hysterical. The only exception might be Scars, but I’m sure someone will come up with something else. Scars was relentlessly dark.
Nrama: NextWave was pretty hilarious.
DeConnick: And Fell. Planetary too. And it all comes from his wit, making it pretty f**king smart.
Nrama: Speaking of pretty f**king smart, you have the previously mentioned geneticist June Covington here – aka Toxic Doxie. You and Emma Rios created her back in the Osborn miniseries, so what’s it like to be able to come back to her – especially after her stint in Thunderbolts?
DeConnick: When I started pitching this thing, June was the person who first sprang into mind for this role in one side of a territory beef / drug war. I asked editorial if she was available; there was some checking, and she was. It’s crazy to be working with Warren on this, since he’d written her before in that short from Osborn you mentioned.
Nrama: Big picture here – your Avengers Assemblerun has been a different kind of Avengers book than the others we’ve seen out there with Hickman, Rick Remender and the others.
DeConnick: People ask me who the book’s roster is, and I tell them my roster is the entire Avengers team! If the character is available, I can write them. I have my favorites, of course; Steve, Carol, Tony and Jessica are probably my favorite four and I would write them forever and ever if I could. I think. I don’t know. The fun of Avengers Assemble is that I’m able to pull people in as I want or need them.
With Avengers Assemble, I have the full deck of cards to play with and I can deal out the best hand for problem I want them to struggle against.