NYCC Exclusive: AVENGERS AI.NOW Brings Bigger Technological Threats

Credit: Marvel Comics

It may only be a few months old, but Avengers A.I. is already getting a big second push and a drastically different story arc. Announced at New York Comic Con, Sam Humphries is taking the electronic Avengers not one hundred, not one thousand, but ten thousand years into the future.

To find out why the series is going on such an out-there journey, Newsarama talked exclusively with Humphries about the new direction, who might show up, and just what is making Dimitrios so dang cool.

Newsarama: Sam, Avengers A.I. #8.NOW bears the "NOW" label, it kicks off a brand-new story arc, and it guest stars the Uncanny Avengers. This sounds like an easy jump-on point for new readers, yet at the same time, a very direct continuation of how you've started the book. How much of this was planned and how much was a happy confluence?

Sam Humphries: Haha, a bit of both, really. Issue 7 was going to be the start of the new arc, but when we were given the opportunity to add to the epic canvas of INHUMANITY, the new arc bumped to 8, which just so happened to line up with everything going on with All-New Marvel Now.

Some of the major pieces of this story have been on my wish list since I initially planned the book. Dimitrios' next big move, the SHIELD Robot Hunter Squad, the Marvel Universe ten thousand years from now... But it is very much an easy jumping on point. Any new reader will get quickly caught up to speed with the Vision and his new status quo, Hank Pym's latest revelations, Victor in the [REDACTED], and Doombot's righteous indignation. 

Nrama: Dimitrios seems to have, pardon the pun, taken on a life of his own. When you were initially pitching on this book/story, did you intend his story to grow this much and for him to become a big, lasting villain?

Humphries: Well, you never create a new character thinking they're gonna fly like a dead duck and disappear in a two-line Marvel Wiki entry. But I also didn't try to crack a formula to create a legacy character. I wanted a bad guy who was fun to write and fun to read, a character who could embody and transform the man vs. machine debate, and someone relatable, despite their reprehensible actions. I imagined Dimitrios to be the opposite of the Vision -- power-hungry and extremist, but also loose and outgoing. In terms of the size of his story -- Dimitrios realizes A.I. don't have a natural life span. His ambitions grew accordingly. Once I figured out what someone like Dimitrios would do with ten-thousand years, I knew his story would go beyond the first arc.

Nrama: Perhaps the largest surprise in this story is that you're taking the Marvel Universe ten thousand years into the future! What's the basic status of the Marvel Universe in the 130th Century, and why does the story need to take us so far ahead?

Humphries: The basic status of the Marvel Universe of 10,000 years from today is humanity is extinct, but the Avengers are not. A.I. don't die, they just get smarter -- and Dimitrios is someone who has embraced that. He's playing a long con -- a VERY long con -- possibly the most ambitious scheme ever hatched in the Marvel Universe. And it all comes together in the 130th century.

Nrama: You have sort of your own corner of the Marvel Universe with these A.I. Characters – how is that freeing and appealing to you, and conversely why is it important to bring in some other characters like the Uncanny Avengers this early?

Humphries: Oh, it's a blast having my own little arena to mess around in. I get to build my own cast and do some weird stuff and foster an evolving status quo. And when something like INHUMANITY happens, I get to bop over to the event side and have fun there, too. But when it comes to a status quo -- like a race of super-intelligent machines threatening the extinction of the human race -- you have to show how it is relevant to the larger Marvel Universe. Just like how a threat needs to be dramatized through the perspective of an individual human (or mutant, Inhuman, or A.I.) you also need to pull back and show just how far it goes on a big stage. 

Also it is important to bring the Uncanny Avengers on to the book because they are fun as hell to write. Especially in this context -- having Captain America understand that life on Earth is threatened by A.I., but not really understanding how it works. That's Hank's and the Vision's area of expertise. Cap may have decked Hitler, but Hank can think like a machine.

Nrama: What is it about the ideas of AI and androids that make them so enduring in science fiction? Also, why do they work particularly well in superhero stories?

Humphries: Robots serve two enduring human impulses: they give us a mirror of ourselves, and they give us a chance to play god. And they work well in superhero stories because they look great punching the hell out of each other.

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