Jeff Loveness says his three-part story running through this week's Amazing Spider-Man Special #1 and the upcoming Inhuman Special #1 and All-New Captain America Special #1 represents "the Classic, the Old and the New." You might think Spider-Man is the "Classic" one, but what Loveness is referring to is a hero older than web-crawler -- older by decades.
Loveness, who spends his days writing for the late night show Jimmy Kimmel Live!, sat down to talk with us about this trio of specials that make up his first long-form comics work for Marvel. In it, he talks about what brings these disparate heroes together -- Red Raven.
Originally created in 1940 by Captain America co-creator Joe Simon and artist Luis Cazeneuve, Red Raven was one of Marvel's first heroes. For these specials, Loveness has seized upon a rarely-thought of plot thread connecting the Red Raven's homeland, the Aerie, as one of the lost cities of Inhumans. Now, with Inhumanity behind us, Red Raven is re-entering the world and bringing Spider-Man, the Inhumans, and All-New Captain America together in one of the most unlikely team-ups of the year.
Loveness also talked about his fondness for the late Inhuman Karnak, his ongoing inner-monologue, and the similarities between comedy writers and Spider-Man.
Newsarama: Jeff, what's going on in this trio of special issues you're doing for Inhuman, All-New Captain America, and Amazing Spider-Man.
Jeff Loveness:It’s a trilogy of specials which unites Spider-Man, the Inhumans, and the All-New Captain America against a threat hearkening back from the Golden Age of Marvel Comics. Each issue focuses on their particular point of view in the story and how they tackle this unforeseen disaster.
Nrama: What does it take to get such different characters together?
Loveness: The threat directly ties into the Inhumans. They’re the ones under siege in their new home on the Hudson River.
And well… Spider-Man’s everywhere. If there’s a problem in New York, he’s on top of it… perhaps annoyingly so. Your problems are his problems… mainly because he uses that as an excuse to not focus on his actual problems.
We’ll see it tie into Cap on an emotional level. Sam Wilson’s always had untapped psionic control when it comes to birds and avian creatures. When an island of savage bird-monsters attack New York, one would imagine Sam would feel some impact from that. I wanted to push those abilities as far as they can go.
Nrama: Who has been your favorite character to write as a part of this story so far?
Loveness: I’ve had a running Peter Parker monologue in my head since I was 4 years old… and I’ve kept it to the stage of my adult life where it’s embarrassing. (There was this one time in college... I was deeply in love with a girl. I made the plan to confess my eternal love for her. I had a speech and everything. I practiced. Later that day, I ran into her on the campus shuttle bus… where she introduced me to her new boyfriend. I legitimately fell down the stairs and out of the bus in shock. I muttered “Typical Parker luck” as they drove away… and they’re married now. So I guess it all worked out for everybody.)
What was the question again?
Nrama: You answered that one, even if you didn't know it. Let me try to get it out of you again -- what are this assembled group of heroes up against? Something or someoen Golden Age, but that's a very long list.
Loveness: The main threat comes from a locale that hasn’t popped up in Marvel Comics for quite a while. It’s an independent Inhuman settlement known as The Aerie, or “Sky-Island.” The continuity’s always been a little blurry on it. It was destroyed, then that was revealed to be a fake-out (comic books are so excellent at resurrection, aren’t they?) then it was just left alone for a while. This story brings it into the modern day.
Spidey, Cap and Medusa are going up against Red Raven, a forgotten hero from The Golden Age of Marvel. He was one of the very first Marvel characters. He’s older than Captain America. He fought alongside the Marvel heroes of World War II, but he never really took off in popularity. Outside of a few, continuity-fuzzy issues, he hasn’t been seen in a while… so what happened? Why does he suddenly hate the Inhumans so much?
Nrama: Speaking of mysteries, how’d you wind up getting the chance to write these three specials? You're entrenched in TV, but this is one of your first comic book works.
Loveness: I had done some one-off work for Marvel. I wrote a Broo and Iron Man team-up in A+X #17, and I wrote a short story for Death of Wolverine: Life After Logan about Cyclops reflecting on his complicated feelings about the mangy Canadian. That was an especially personal story for me. Cyclops is, flat-out, my favorite Marvel character. It was hard growing up as a Cyclops fan in the 90’s. There are, like, four Cyclops fans in the world. But we are resilient. The Cyclops and Wolverine relationship is my favorite thing in the Marvel Universe… it was truly an honor memorialize that.
And from there, I just assume Marvel editor Nick Lowe got violently drunk one night and offered me the 3-part specials in a cruel prank that accidentally went too far.
Nrama: You’ve written a few stories for Marvel at this point, but your background is actually in comedy. How has that informed the way you write these characters?
Loveness: It definitely helps, but I also wanted to push myself into more dramatic territory. Obviously, Spider-Man is known for his banter, but he’s also the most resilient character in the Marvel Universe. He’s the world’s greatest superhero for a reason. I didn’t want to shortchange Pete’s sense of loss with constant quips… so the trick was balancing that with his humor. He uses jokes as a coping mechanism for the tragedies he’s faced. Peter Parker is an immensely damaged person, but he’s learned to cope with his failures through selflessness and humor. Hopefully I found a balance there.
But the comedy background definitely helps. Marvel movies maintain a playful outlook on things… even in the midst of despair. I really admire that tone. Grand adventure goes well with a healthy does of comedy and fun, so it’s been nice to shift gears into macro-storytelling, but also fall back on my default comedy mode.
Nrama: The cast of Inhuman has gotten pretty large these days. Were there any characters you didn’t get a chance to write, but wanted to?
Loveness: I absolutely love Ms. Marvel. She’s the new Spider-Man. My favorite classic Inhuman was always Karnak… but sadly, he is no more. And I never turn down the opportunity to write a teleporting dog, but Lockjaw was a no-go as well. He’s hanging with Kamala.
There’s a lot going on with the Inhumans right now, so a few characters were off-limits. Black Bolt is pretty much on his own in the shadows (and dealing with Secret Wars stuff), along with Maximus… so while a lot of the top-shelf characters were unavailable, it gave me a chance to jump into this new crop of teenage Inhumans. How often do you get to write brand new characters untouched by decades of Marvel continuity? I love deciphering the Summers family tree continuity as much as anyone, but this is way easier.
Nrama: Speaking of the Inhumans, they have a higher profile right now than at any other point in their history, with multiple series and a movie on the horizon. How does it feel to be a part of that?
Loveness: I had no idea about the Inhuman movie when I took the job. So when I saw the announcement, I went “Oh… well I better not suck.”
I do not want to be the one to single-handedly derails the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If that happened, I don’t think I would allow myself to be a person on this planet anymore.
Nrama: Other than these specials, what have you got coming down the pike at Marvel?
Loveness: We just announced the Groot series. I’m still in the middle of writing that – but it’s turning out to be remarkably fun… and surprisingly poignant... at least for me. Who knows? People may burn photos of me in the streets in protest… but I like what I have so far. I was up late at 3AM, struggling with the script, when suddenly, something about Groot clicked in me… something made me relate so much to him. It made me both tremendously sad for him and profoundly lucky for the experience to write the story. I hope people like it. I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll just be a super annoying 25 year old and drop a David Foster Wallace quote that served as some inspiration for Groot: “How odd I can have all this inside me and to you it's just words.”
Nrama: Since the three chapters of your story are listed as “specials,” what do you think readers will find most “special” about them?
Loveness: I really like how all 3 specials tackle a different area of Marvel history: The Classic, the Old and the New.
I tried to structure the first issue like a classic Spider-Man adventure. There are girl problems. There are quips. There is peril. Spider-Man comics have some of the best story structure in the world, and I wanted to celebrate that, while also setting up the broader story to come.
The second part, Inhuman Special #1, presents the old clashing with the new. There have been so many status quo changes in the Marvel Universe recently –and many of those have had unintended consequences upon forgotten players. We bring back an old Marvel character – one of the absolute oldest. He confronts the heroes about the recklessness of their actions. All of our modern noise is destroying the old world… and maybe we should realize the damage we’re doing. Maybe having punch-contests with Thanos every other weekend hurts more innocent people than you realize.
The finale, All-New Captain America Special #3, celebrates the new. We’ve got a new Captain America. We’ve got a new crop of Inhumans with bold new stories to tell, and we’ve got plenty of new ways for Spider-Man to relate to readers of every background. I tried to fuse all of these reference points together in a way that’s weird, big, and hopefully fun to read…I’m thrilled to see what people think of it. Hopefully they like it, but once again… the “Burning my photo in the streets in protest” option is also available.