Next week, the classic Avengers foes the Squadron Sinister hit Secret Wars with their own title, which writer Marc Guggenheim has dubbed a “sweeping crime epic.” Following the five main “sinisters” – Hyperion, Nighthawk, Warrior Woman, Dr. Spectrum, and the Whizzer, Squadron Sinister tells the story of what happens in a Battleworld territory run by hardened super-criminals.
Newsarama caught up with Guggenheim to talk about what it means to tell a crime epic in a world of capes and masks in chat that teases everything from the Squadron’s adversaries, to the possible deaths of multiple members of the team.
Newsarama: Marc, You’ve compared your version of Squadron Sinister with The Sopranos and Sons of Anarchy. How does that comparison bear out? Who are the Tony Soprano and Jax Teller of Squadron Sinister?
Marc Guggenheim: Well, I’m not sure it’s a literal, one for one, translation in terms of characters. Rather, I was making that comparison in terms of the kind of storytelling. I’m trying to tell as sweeping a crime drama as I can in four issues. What I’ve enjoyed about Sopranos and Sons of Anarchy — as well as other crime dramas where the criminals are the protagonists — is the twists and turns those stories take, particularly the internecine battles that happen within the organizations, the fractures in alliances, the petty rivalries. I’m also a fan of the way Sons of Anarchy would often keep the characters’ intentions and plans — particularly Jax’s, like in the finale of Season 3 — hidden from the audience. If I were to speak in terms of characters, Hyperion is probably the Tony Soprano. He’s the head of this group, but he’s grown a bit weary. He’s bored. He’s on the top of the world and it’s not enough. It’s not a direct comparison to Tony, but it’s in the range.
Nrama: We’ve seen the core line-up of the Squadron – Hyperion, Warrior Woman, Whizzer, Dr. Spectrum, and Nighthawk. Will we see any of the secondary members show up in the series?
Guggenheim: No. I feel like that’s a big enough group for the series. Plus, the original Squadron Sinister was only comprised of four characters — Hyperion, Whizzer, Dr. Spectrum, and Nighthawk. I only added Warrior Woman because I felt a woman should be part of the group as well.
Nrama: Is this a Squadron Sinister we’ve seen before, or new versions of these characters?
Guggenheim: With the exception of Warrior Woman, this is the same Squadron Sinister that was introduced in Avengers (Vol. 1) #69 and #70. I wanted to hew as close to the classic characters as possible because part of the appeal of the series is seeing these guys — who are, let’s be honest, just evil versions of the Justice League members — in this new Battleworld environment.
Nrama What other characters will we see show up in the series? The Squadron are villains, who are the heroes they go up against?
Guggenheim: So many. One of the things I love about the whole Battleworld concept is that it offers a chance to make a deep dive into Marvel’s treasure trove of characters. Secret Wars really is a love letter to the Marvel Universe and I was very fortunate to get access to all the characters I wanted to play with. Over the course of the series, you’ll see the Frightful Four, characters from the New Universe, characters from Marvel: The Lost Generation, the Supreme Power incarnation of the Squadron Supreme, characters from Epic Comics’ Shadowline Saga, and an entire domain made up of characters from all of Marvel’s war comics.
Nrama: What can you tell us about Utopolis, the Squadron’s territory?
Guggenheim: It’s kinda like Metropolis in the DC Universe. It even has its own version of the Hall of Justice. What makes it different, however, is the fact that it’s ruled over by Hyperion and the Sinisters. So things work differently there than you might imagine. There are a couple of instances of the Sinisters enforcing the law of the land — but the law is actually pretty lawless. It’s very much a “survival of the fittest” kind of place, but one with its own strange rules. In that respect, it’s a lot like a criminal organization. Criminal organizations aren’t completely lawless. They have their own code. Utopolis is run pretty much like that.
Nrama: We’ve seen in later solicits that one of the Squadron may die.
Guggenheim: If it turned out to only be one member, I’d be surprised.
Nrama: What’s it like working with Carlos Pacheco on this series?
Guggenheim: Such a dream come true. I’ve been a fan of Carlos’ work for pretty much ever. It’s really a special thing as a writer when you write for an artist who you’ve previously been a fan of. And Carlos is really the perfect artist for this project because of his work for both Marvel and DC. He’s drawing it like a Marvel book, but he also has the visual vocabulary that really sells the element of the concept that analogizes the DC Universe. And he’s put in a bunch of really cool easter eggs for those familiar with DC Comics. It’s really the least we could do for lampooning their characters as we are with this series.
Nrama: We’ve heard that elements of Squadron Sinister will be sticking around post-Secret Wars. Can you shed any light on that?
Guggenheim: I cannot. Sorry.
Nrama: Will any other versions of the Squadron show up in Squadron Sinister?
Guggenheim: Just the Supreme Power version in our opening pages. Because that was a Max comic, I delighted in giving all the Supreme Power characters dialogue laced with profanity.
Nrama: What’s the best reason to pick up Squadron Sinister even if you’re not reading Secret Wars?
Guggenheim: While I don’t understand being a Marvel fan and not reading Secret Wars, Secret Wars really isn’t required reading for Squadron Sinister. The opening page properly orients you to the situation on Battleworld, so you can just read the story for its core concept: What if the Justice League were evil? And even if you’re not a DC fan but are a Marvel fan, there are so many concepts and characters from the Marvel universe that we’re using that it really feels like a cracked mirror version of DC vs. Marvel Comics.