Original Sin uncovered some deep dirt on the origins of the modern Marvel Universe, and in January Agent Carter and Howard Stark are digging deeper. Announced during the “Cup ’ Joe” Panel at New York Comic Con this Saturday, Operation S.I.N. is a 1950s era espionage tale featuring Peggy Carter and Howard Stark on the hunt for a mysterious new terrorist group known as Hydra. Heard of them? So has a man named Woodrow McCord, the person in the role as “Man on the Wall” as revealed in Original Sin, and he’s going to pull back the curtain for Carter and Stark on Hydra’s extraterrestrial connections and his work to stop it.
The five-issue Original Sin series is written by Kathryn Immonen and illustrated by Rich Ellis. Immonen has a history with Agent Carter, having written her in the one-shot Captain America & The First Thirteen, but this series provides the biggest story yet in modern times for Carter – who’ll be starring next year in her own television series. Newsarama talked to both Immonen and the series’ editor Jon Moisan about this January series and how it fits within the Marvel tapestry.
Newsarama: Kathryn, Jon, what can people expect with Operation: S.I.N.?
Kathryn Immonen: We've cooked up a delicious casserole of adventure, aliens, spy craft and explosions.
Jon Moisan: People can expect a badass Cold War-era spy story featuring Peggy Carter and Howard Stark!
Immonen: World War II may be over but people are people and Peggy can't stop breaking limbs and Howard can't keep his fingers off the buttons.
Moisan: This series is very much a spy story but done in a way that only Marvel can. And I don’t want to spill too much, but someone definitely fights a bear.
Nrama: So What does the abbreviation “S.I.N.” stand for?
Immonen: That's the big Q... and while I always try to maintain a policy of truth when answering questions, I'm going to go with "Stalin is Next".
Nrama: Kathryn, this features Peggy Carter, who you’ve written before in Captain America & The First Thirteen. What’s it like returning with her here?
Immonen: Peggy's gained a lot of traction in the absence of much material. It was kind of the same situation with Sif; she looms so large in the narrative but without much real estate to back it up. It's amazing to be able to take a character like this and really start to fill in her story. I have a feeling that, going in, readers are going to expect Woody the Backwoods Pile Driver to be the real badass but those are blasphemous rumors and Peggy's got a surprise for you.
Nrama: Who is joining Peggy and Howard in this cast?
Moisan: I think the main takeaway that I want people to have when they hear the cast is that it’s largely a cast of “regular people.” And by that, I mean these are the heroes that don’t have super powers or secret identities. These are the heroes of the Marvel Universe that are fighting the good fight and putting even more on the line in order to protect their world. But that’s not to say that they’re less effective or dangerous. I think people will see once this series is out that the team of Peggy, Howard and Woodrow could give lots of super teams a run for their money.
Immonen: The sliding comics time line makes it a little challenging to fit in characters that go on to great heights in the current continuity but what we've been able to do is explore a couple of characters juuust before they really come into their powers. Our three Americans essentially come face to face with their Soviet reflections at a period of time when optimism is difficult to maintain and ideologies are clashing. The last thing I'll say is that I think it's fairly well known that, when it comes to talking animals, I just can't get enough.
Nrama: Kathryn, what’s it like writing Tony Stark’s father, Howard? How do you write him and avoid not making him seem like a replica of Tony Stark?
Immonen: It's a good question. I think that while Tony and Howard are both characters whose experience of the world and the people around them is cushioned by massive amounts of money, and maybe Howard is not damaged people in the same way that Tony is, Howard's not necessarily having to cover up or deflect the feelings that self-reflection can bring. Howard's not a cynic and given that fact that he's seen two world wars, he has every right to be.
Nrama: When you mention Woodrow McCord, you have to think this is more than just terrestrial threats but also some extraterrestrial influence involved. Can you tell us about any cosmic/alien component to this story?
Immonen: Woody's used to being able to look down the barrel of a gun, right into the eyes of whatever he's hunting. This time, he's having trouble finding it which is why he needs Howard's help. And what Woody's looking for is exactly what our satellite Hydra cell has been looking for but they're not at all in agreement as to how its story ends.
Moisan: I don’t want to give away too much, but I will say that Hydra is involved. An organization like Hydra is always looking for objects and places that will help them in their quest for world domination. I’m sure they’ve had a few mishaps in their history and a story set in the 50’s would be a great place to explore just such a mishap…
Nrama: I know continuity is meant to bend somewhat, but how will this series – set in the Cold War --- work with all that’s been done in Marvel Comics, especially those done in the same time period these stories are set?
Immonen: We're trying not to interfere. I wish I could say that continuity is a pain that I'm used to but there are always going to be challenges. Having said that, I think we're fortunate that there is something of an existing interstitial gap that we have happily slipped into as we explore a transitional moment, historically and for the characters personally.
Moisan: I think my favorite thing about this story and cast is that this period of time in the Marvel Universe is largely unexplored. While there are a few concrete details, Kathryn and Rich really have a ton of room to work. When we first outlined this series, Kathryn came to me with a list of characters she wanted to use and for the most part, that list remained intact. And I think that’s because the in history of the Marvel Universe, most heroes were absent or nonexistent during the 50’s so the characters in this story don’t have to worry about stepping around them. What’s even better, in my opinion, is that because of this we’re free to throw these characters into situations and events that have a larger influence on the Marvel Universe as a whole and really elevate their importance.
Nrama: Last question is for you, Jonathan. Kathryn Immonen and Rich Ellis are unique choices to do this sort of story – what led you to drawing their names?
Moisan: Well, to me the choice was easy. When the idea of a series starring Peggy Carter was first floated by me, I researched her by reading Kathryn’s Peggy story from 2011, Captain America & The First Thirteen, and I knew right there that I had found my writer. The fact that Kathryn was able to make Peggy such a dynamic and interesting character in the span of one issue made me salivate to see what she could do with a whole miniseries. And based on what she’s been doing, I know without a shadow of a doubt that she was born to write Peggy Carter. As far as Rich goes, he and I worked together briefly on Superior Foes of Spider-Man and I was a fan of his starting there. Seeing how well he handled the mix of the fantastic and the ordinary, I knew that he’d be great on something like this. Rich has a fantastic handle on creating dynamic action with very grounded characters. From the very first page in the very first issue, Rich has been able to make this a book that looks unlike anything else we’re publishing and I think people will really respond to it.